Are you satisfied with how your spiritual life is going? Are you more like Jesus than you were a year ago? Is your daily time with God bringing you transformation?
For centuries Christians have engaged in specific practices for the purpose of facilitating spiritual formation. God’s purpose for you is that you “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). How does that happen? The practices often referred to as spiritual disciplines have no merit in themselves any more than you eat food in order to fulfill a checklist. Food may provide pleasure, but the most important reason you eat is to give your human system what it needs to live, function, and thrive. It’s the same with the spiritual practices we engage in.
In my work with people I often ask them, “What do your prayers sound like recently?” “Where are you and God these days?” “If you do spend time with God regularly, what does that look like?” Today I’m asking you to consider those questions.
First, a few important ways to think about your daily time with God, and then I’ll offer some specific recommendations for how to make that time more transformative.
Why Daily Time With God?
Having some perspective on why you’re doing what you’re doing helps in all kinds of ways. A few important things to keep in mind:
Not a “Pill,” but a Process. Just like in most things we engage in, we want a quick fix for our relationship with God. But spiritual formation doesn’t come in a pill any more than a friendship or marriage does. God is inviting you into an ongoing process of becoming. The measure of success is not how you feel after your 10 minutes or hour with God, but who you are in a year, ten years. Tweet that.
Not Information-Based. Your soul does not become transformed primarily by information. As important as it is to know the right things about God, stuffing facts into your left brain doesn’t change you. Your whole “system” needs to be involved in the process – body, mind, and soul.
No Single Template. There’s no “right” way to spend your daily time with God. Yes, there are certain elements that many followers of Jesus have found helpful, but this is not a checklist. Just as your relationship with your friend or spouse changes over time and you “do” different things together, so it is with your relationship with God. What’s helpful and meaningful will be different at different times in your spiritual journey. Changing it up is good.
A Five-to-Ten Minute Template
If you’re not accustomed to spending daily time with God, start here. Like signing up for a gym membership on January 1 and stopping after two weeks, setting out to spend an hour with God daily right from the start may not “work.” And different seasons of life affect what’s possible as well. Start where you are. A few minutes does matter.
As John Eldredge has said, “Start with three minutes of loving Jesus.” If you can’t do three minutes, do one minute. Begin your time with God by getting quiet and being present for a moment. “Jesus, I’m here. Please come be with me.”
Once you’re still, read a Psalm or a brief story from one of the gospels. This is not Bible study! This is noticing the story other lovers of God have experienced, entering that story, and making it your own. And it’s letting down the walls around your own heart in God’s presence.
Take a moment to notice your emotional state. If your emotional vocabulary is not extensive, use the mad-sad-glad-afraid paradigm. Take a minute to check in with your soul; which of those four basic emotional states feels most “real” to me right now? Notice it, and then speak to God about it for a moment as if He were right there with you.
And then spend a minute or few minutes in silence. This is hard for many of us to do! Your brain will be distracted in a thousand different directions. Just keep calmly bringing your focus back to being present with Jesus right now. It’s in that quietness that you become able to sense His presence and hear His voice.
That daily five-to-ten minutes can change your day, and your life.
An Hour-ish Template
As your relationship with God deepens you are likely to feel your heart desire more time with God. For the last few years I’ve been spending about an hour with God daily, and I miss it when something happens to keep me from that time.
The basic elements are the same, but you can incorporate more elements.
Make sure you bring your body into the presence of God. Make your five senses alert; a fresh cup of coffee, worship music, a comfortable chair, fragrance. Breathe deeply and relax. You may find yourself praying in different postures; raising your hands, flat on your face, sitting quietly, kneeling, walking back and forth.
Begin by letting go of your “stuff.” Again from John Eldredge, “Jesus, I release everyone and everything to You.” I’ve made this a regular starting place for my prayers recently. It takes practice to let things go and be fully present.
With whatever Bible reading practice you choose, don’t rush it. Take a passage and marinate in it for a while. Be in the story. Come to God’s word for food, not for information. I’ve sometimes spent months marinating in a section of Scripture. Notice any walls in your heart that God is dealing with you about as you read and meditate.
Journaling can be a very helpful practice in these times with God. Journaling helps you express your own heart more openly, and you may sense God speaking to you and clarifying things even as you write.
And don’t forget to include silence. The amount of time I spend in silence in God’s presence has grown significantly. Sometimes I will just sit quietly for twenty minutes “saying” nothing but being in God’s presence and communing with Him heart-to-heart.
Spending your time with God like this is certain to bring you real transformation, changing you from the inside out.
Wherever you are right now in your relationship with God, just start! If it’s five minutes, do that. If you’re hungry for more, you’ll find your heart even more changed with a greater investment of being with Jesus.
Your Turn: What has your daily time with God been looking like? What’s been helpful? Are there any elements talked about here that you will incorporate into your time with God going forward? Leave a comment below.
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- Transformation comes by spending daily time with God. Here are some templates for how to spend time with Him whether you have five minutes or an hour. Tweet that.
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