Every book I have read on cultivating a life filled with spiritual discipline (i.e. prayer, meditation, Bible intake, journaling, fasting, stewardship, etc.) encourages the believer to start small. With the objective of spending a lifetime of walking with God, just begin with a few small steps. That’s what I did, and this is where I started.
One day I had about 30 minutes to spend on my devotional time before I had to leave for an appointment. Time with God is always the priority, but God also wants us to honor our commitments. So I was stuck in a time constraint. How could I best use the 30 minutes? I decided that I would break down the short time available into four areas; Bible reading, prayer, meditation and journaling. Dividing my 30 minutes by 4, I decided I would spend 7 minutes on each discipline. So I set a timer for 7 minutes, opened my Bible, and started reading. When the timer went off I moved on to the next element, prayer. I set a timer, hit my knees, and prayed…for 7 minutes. I did likewise with meditation. I sat in silence for 7 minutes and practiced purposeful listening until the timer sounded. The last element was journaling. I opened my journal, set the timer, and began to write/draw/sketch/scribble. I made sure to let it flow and not to fuss over poor punctuation, or editing. I just wrote what was on my heart in that moment.
When the 7-7-7-7 was over I felt a closeness with God. I felt His presence, and a peace came over me. It was just a short time, but the impact was huge. I was so encouraged that I began to implement the practice into my morning routine. At first I left it at 7-minute intervals, but as I grew spiritually, and as time allowed, I extended the intervals to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, even 1 hour. Imagine, after beginning with just 7 minutes, I was now able to spend a full hour in prayer and feeling that I could go much longer. After all, what could be better than spending time with God?
So, here is a suggestion. Just start with 7-7-7-7. Give it a try and see what happens. If you are pressed for time try 5-5-5-5…even 3-3-3-3 is worth a try. But begin your walk with God. Do it every day and be amazed by the journey. I have been!
SCRIPTURE: 7 Minutes
There are a lot of great reading plans available for getting started reading the Bible. My personal favorite comes from Donald Whitney’s book on spiritual disciples. Beginning in 5 books; Genesis, Joshua, Job, Isaiah and Matthew, I begin with the first chapter in each book and read 1 or 2 chapters every day. When I get to the end of one of the books I continue on to the next. I generally am able to read through the Bible in about 6-7 months. Then I start all over again. At the point of this writing I have read through the Bible 6 times and am currently immersed in my 7th reading. I love it!
Obviously that plan would require more than 7 minutes, so here are a few other suggestions:
Start in the book of John. John’s gospel is a great start for an overview of the life of Christ and a clear understanding of God’s good and perfect will.
Another great place to start is the book of Proverbs. Wise sayings mainly attributed to Solomon, but collected over a couple of centuries and filled with Godly wisdom. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so reading a chapter commensurate with the day-of-the-month is a fun way to get started. Reading and re-reading Proverbs on a daily basis is life-changing.
Or just flip through the Bible and jump in wherever your fingers stop. God’s word is powerful and instructive – all of it!
PRAYER: 7 Minutes
Remember this is not the “Prayer Olympics.” God judges the heart, so you could not be in a safer place to poor out your heart.
As with all of these disciplines, find a quiet place where you won’t be seen or heard and you won’t be disturbed. Be secluded.
I pray on my knees. Sometimes I pray while seated with my elbows on my desk and my hands folded. It’s also not unusual for me to walk around my home-office while I pray and have an “out-loud” conversation with God. Often I brew two cups of coffee, one for Him and one for me. I set His cup in front of a chair, and I converse with Him just like I would if a friend stopped by. Or I might lay flat on my face with my arms outstretched.
Remember, God is the most real person in your life. He made you. He knows you. He desires time with you. So give it to Him. Talk to Him.
MEDITATION: 7 Minutes
Relationships are dependent on clear communication. God wants to speak to us, and He wants us to listen. And He wants us to speak with Him, so He can hear us. Back and forth like a dance – speaking and listening, speaking and listening. If prayer is akin to us speaking with God, then meditation would be the listening part.
Honestly, this is the toughest discipline for me. As soon as I lie down, close my eyes, and relax into God’s presence a host of thoughts start bouncing between my ears. Tasks ahead of me. Fear. Worry. Lust. Am I hungry – when will I eat next? What’s that sound? The list of distractions sometimes seems endless. So I just say the name “Jesus” quietly over and over to myself and try to picture Him. I just quiet my mind. It takes practice but it works!
When my mind is still I let Him in, whatever He wants me to know. It is actually the simplest of all the disciplines once I stop trying to help. Just listen…
JOURNALING: 7 Minutes
I am amazed at the power of journaling. Why is it so effective to just write something down? Maybe its because you are taking something that has been hidden to others (maybe even yourself) and bringing it out into the light. I don’t know. Maybe it is the physical act of using your fingers that makes it “real.” I’m not sure. What I do know is that it works, and it has worked for a lot of friends of mine too.
I have several journals, some fancy, some not-so-fancy. I put the date at the top and I begin writing. Most of the time it feels like I am taking dictation. I write down whatever is on my heart at that moment. If I smell cookies and it seems like that is coming from God, I write, “I smell cookies.” I might draw a picture of something that He is showing me, or maybe just a few words of encouragement that I’m hearing. “Jeff, you are doing it! I love you!” Sometimes it is very specific, related to a thing I’m struggling to figure out. Giod has all the answers, so I write down what He says. Journal. Doodle. A poem, or just a word.
I make it a habit to go back over my journal and review the entries from time to time. I can clearly discern His voice versus mine, and I feel the closeness of God.