August 4, 2016
Last weekend, we walked through some practical prayer and Bible study tips. We wrote them down and wanted to share them because we’ve found them incredibly helpful. We hope you do, too.
1. You simply have to commit to doing it. A lot of people do their prayer and study first thing in the morning. You might remember Patrick saying that’s when he does his because he found it doesn’t happen if he doesn’t do it then. But some people prefer evening or lunch quiet time. The key is to pick the time of day when you know you’re most likely to stay committed. If you’re more of a night owl, reading and studying right before bed might be the best time for you. There is no time of day that is more sacred to the Lord. He wants to meet with you, morning, noon or night.
2. Bring everything you need and leave behind everything you don’t. Patrick has his Bible, his planner (to jot down thoughts that come to mind that he needs to get out to fully focus on his study) and coffee. If you’re prone to filling downtime texting or with social media, try leaving your phone and computer in another room. If stillness and quiet make it easy to fall asleep, choose somewhere other than the quiet of your bedroom for your quiet time.
Patrick shared the ‘IOUs’ prayer he begins every study time with. It’s a method he learned from John Piper that you can read about here. It’s a great way to ready yourself for your quiet time. If you often feel God’s closeness through music, try starting with one or two worship songs.
After Patrick prays, he reads Psalm 119, then two or three other Psalms. He then moves to Proverbs and reads whichever Proverb corresponds with which day of the month it is. (If it’s August 8, he reads Proverbs 8; if it’s August 27, he reads Proverbs 27, etc.) In addition to Psalms and Proverbs, he’s often working his way through a reading plan. Many smartphone Bible apps have reading plans that assign different passages of Scripture to each day. (www.youversion.com)
Going with the Psalms + Proverbs + Reading Plan approach might help jumpstart your quiet time if you’re overwhelmed with where to begin. But if you have another way that works, or if the Lord prompts you to shake up your routine, go with that.
Another way to draw the most out of your quiet time is to tailor it to how you’re wired. If you’re drawn to music, leave some worship music playing softly in the background. If you like to draw, choose a journal that gives you the freedom to sketch out things God brings to mind while you’re praying and studying. If you’re a writer, make sure you have a good journal and a Bible with wide margins. If you’re a talker, talk out loud to God. All of this helps with what Patrick called growing in the freedom of prayer and study above growing in the form of it. There is no magic formula for prayer and study. God designed and wired us all uniquely, and He gets great joy when you access that unique wiring to respond to Him. Remember: freedom over form.
Patrick compared growing in your study of God’s Word to relationships. At the beginning of any relationship, you know so little about the other person. But every day, the more time you spend with them, the better you know them. The better you know them, the more your conversations shift and reflect the new parts of them you begin to know. Bible study and prayer are no different. The more you come to know God, the more your prayers and study will change to reflect the new things you know. When you have times during your study that you don’t know what to pray, remember the promise of Scripture: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will” (Romans 8:26–27, NLT).
There will be days and even strings of days when you miss your quiet time. Just pray again, read again, and let God’s grace and mercy cover you. As Patrick taught, take it moment-by-moment; that leads to walking with God hour-by-hour, day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year and, eventually, decade-by-decade.