“How is your prayer life?” the well-meaning father asked his son. The bright, church-going 14-year-old shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t really pray that much.” “Why not?” the concerned father pressed. “I don’t really need anything.”
That honest teenager put words to what many of us are afraid to admit out loud—we don’t pray unless we need something. In the following article, staff writer Dennis Fisher takes a look at our common struggle to make time for God. Along the way, he gives us some practical pointers that will help us as we strive to pray, read God’s Word, and serve others in the process.
Right after the creation of the first man and woman, the Bible tells us that God was “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (genesis 3:8).
The Creator of the universe did not hide from His creatures behind closed doors or angelic assistants. Instead, He sought out Adam and Eve for spiritual companionship.
The same fellowship-seeking God who walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day is reaching out to each of us today.
This is what a quiet time is all about—spending time with God to experience His presence, comfort, and guidance.
Many of us wish to have a meaningful quiet time with God, yet we find ourselves in an environment where that is difficult. This may lead to a sense of guilt if we neglect our personal devotional time with God. But if we measure our spirituality by counting the number of times we have met with God during the week, we have missed the point. Devotions are a matter of our heart, not just an appointment on our calendar.
As a sophomore in college, I had a discipline problem. All kinds of activities and distractions competed with getting assignments in on time and preparing for exams. The busyness of life constantly caused me to replace one activity with another or to neglect some things entirely. Not only did I not seem to get things done, I was having a hard time making a plan for getting things done.
One night after class, I discussed my problem with a professor. He recommended that I prioritize my daily schedule. As I considered his advice, I felt compelled to single out time with God as the top priority of each day. That would be the one “to do” that always got done, regardless of whatever else might fill my day. Planning it for the first thing in the morning would help ensure I got it done.
But the next day, as I began my new commitment, my resolve sagged. Time with God seemed like too much effort for not enough reward. I simply wasn’t in the mood.
I admitted my feelings to the Lord. I told Him my heart was cold and I felt little motivation to spend time with Him. I confessed my apathy and thanked Him for His forgiveness.
Then I chose to give my mood to God. I asked Him to replace my stagnation and apathy with His vitality. Rereading my devotional passage for the day, I prayed for real transformation. As I began to pray over the projects that needed my attention later in the day, I told God about my assignments and asked Him for the strength necessary to do my best with them.
By the time my feet hit the asphalt on the way to class, I had begun to feel an energy, a focus, and—most important—a discipline I had previously lacked. That semester my grades went up. God had answered my prayer. As I continued to ask God to solidify my new commitment to spend time with Him, I found the strength I needed.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (isaiah 40:31 nkjv). The prophet’s promise to the people of ancient Israel still holds true for us today. The Hebrew word for renew means “to substitute, to exchange, to show newness, to sprout.” But the kind of waiting that renews strength is active, not passive. It is a deliberate exchange of human effort for divine strength. We are not expected to dig deep and tap into an unknown reserve of our own willpower and determination. Instead we are to ask God to give us His energy—we ask Him to supply our strength.
As we seek to spend time with God, who better to look at as our example than Jesus? During His life on earth, Jesus limited the exercise of His divine powers. Although fully God, He depended on the Father and the indwelling Spirit working through Him. That dependence was demonstrated by the way Jesus sought time alone with His Father. The Gospels record multiple times when Jesus left the crowds and His followers behind for solitary communion with the Father.
Mark 1:32–39 records one such occurrence. A closer look at the text shows the importance and impact of our Lord’s own devotional life and what we can learn from it. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (1:35).
After a long evening of healing sick and demon-possessed people (1:29–34), Jesus actively made time to commune with God. I believe Christ used this time to regain His spiritual center.
Our Distractions and God’s Directions
“Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come’” (1:36-38).
The word found in verse 37 could be translated “hunted down.” Thinking they knew best how Jesus should spend His day, Peter and his friends sought Him out. They were willing to interrupt the Lord’s prayer time with their own urgent concerns: “Everyone is looking for you!”
But Jesus didn’t worry about being perceived as unresponsive or uncaring. Did His quiet time make Him less sensitive to the people near Him? Just the opposite. It seems that as a result of His time alone with the Father, Jesus desired to continue with His larger mission: “to seek and to save what was lost” (luke 19:10). Meeting only the needs of those directly in front of Him would have been to ignore God’s concern for all who are lost. Jesus’ resolve was solidified after His time with the Father.
Jesus used His time alone with God for meaningful fellowship as well as for strength and direction to carry on with His mission. If we desire the same results from our time alone with God, we need to follow Jesus’ example and apply God’s Word in the power of the Spirit, letting it influence not just what we do but to change the very people we are.
If time alone with God is seen as a once-a-day spiritual oasis or as merely something to be checked off our “to do” list, we may fall into the trap of separating our spiritual life from the rest of our life. That’s a subtle mistake we need to avoid. Time with God is our spiritual lifeline. From the Garden of Eden until now, God has desired to walk with His people in every part of life’s journey.