Written by Dave Barlow
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of St Nic’s.
Two years ago, The C of E commissioned a survey regarding attitudes of discipleship which showed that 60% of self-professed believers admit they never read the Bible and 30% said they never pray.
Despite this other recent surveys have shown that the vast majority of Christians believe that: ‘the Bible provides moral guidance’ and ‘the Bible should shape their daily lives “a great deal”‘.
So, most people believe that it is an important book with important things to say but there is a disconnect between that belief and actually engaging with it.
As a university student, I found it harder when I was home for the summer than when I was at university. At university I tended to be in routines, but at home I wasn’t so much and it was easier to fall out of the habit of spending time with God. So today I will give you seven things I found useful when trying to carve out time with God. But before we get into the ‘top tips’, it’s important to know there is no ‘one’ way of engaging with God. It will look differently for each of us (I highly recommend Gary Thomas’ book ‘Sacred Pathways’- which goes through the different ways of engaging with God) but there are general principles that we can all follow to consistently pursue God.
1. Make it a priority
The number one reason I hear why people aren’t spending time with God is because they’re too busy. However the reality is, for most of us, we aren’t too busy. We have our priorities wrong.
Are you reading this blog post right now? Then you have time to read your Bible.
Have you watched Netflix in the last 24 hours? Then you had time to read your Bible.
Do you ever go on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? You have time to read your Bible.
I am NOT saying these things are wrong. BUT, if you have done a single one of them (and I know for a fact you’re doing one of them right now!), then you DO have time to read the Bible. This may seem harsh but I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone else. A few months ago, I spent some time measuring how many times I picked up my phone up and how much time I spent on it in a day, and I was horrified! If you struggle to stay consistent in Bible study, look at the amount of time you spend using screens or scrolling through social media. I bet you will be surprised about how much time it takes up. Maybe you don’t use social media much but I bet there is something that occupies your free time! We can find time in our day – it just takes some looking at and prioritisation of our desires.
2. Schedule it
If you plan ahead, you’re far more likely to actually do it. Set a time and a place where you can do it and stick to it. Our bodies and minds love habit so if we stick to the same time and space, it becomes instinctive. You know your diary better than anyone so you know what will work for you; As soon as you wake up? Last thing before bed? In your lunch break? There isn’t any wrong time or place, as long as it’s sustainable. I put my quiet times as appointments in my calendar. This may seem a little cold but it helps to fathom the importance of it, in my day. I wouldn’t skip on a dentist appointment, so why would I skip my ‘appointment’ with God?
3. Aeroplane mode is your friend
It’s important not only to have a time and place but one which is free from distraction. Put your phone on aeroplane mode or put it in a different room so it can’t distract you. Whilst they can be great tools for Bible study (e.g. apps like Youversion, Bible In One Year), they can just as easily be distractions, in which case, remove it! The same goes for any distraction; be it technology, family, noise, food or anything else! If it is putting you off spending time with God, remove it!
4. Start small
If you’re anything like me, when you get inspired by something, you try and throw the kitchen sink at it. When I’ve been inspired to spend more time with God, I make these huge promises of spending hours and hours a day in prayer and bible study but usually end up failing, literally the next day which leaves me feeling guilty and I end up not doing any at all.
Don’t be ashamed of baby steps. Start with 5 minutes a day, then 10, then 15 etc. This will be much easier to form lifelong habits with than trying to start with 2 hours a day. And, making the daily choice to do a few minutes a day will be much much more helpful than doing one big session a week.
5. Get accountable
Find a mentor, join a core group or recruit a trusted friend to check in with you regularly about how your time with God is going. Accountability with others can be really helpful in keeping us spiritually healthy. They encourage us, teach us, inspire us, rejoice with us and rebuke us. Having someone we can be honest about our relationship with God can help us to keep pursuing God and time with Him.
6. Use a plan
The Bible is a big book written in different cultures a long time ago and can be really confusing there is no shame in needing some help! There are many great commentaries, reading plans, apps and tools which help us to understand the Bible better. Bible in One Year and Youversion have already been mentioned and are also available as apps and online. If you want something as a hard copy you could print them out or buy hard copies of studies from Ten of Those or Lifebuilder which have studies from every book of the Bible as well as on a wide variety of topics such as forgiveness and money.
7. Remember God’s grace
Last but certainly not least, remember, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. When we don’t spend as long as we want praying or even at all, God still doesn’t condemn you. Whilst His grace is not to meant to leave you where you are and to help keep you becoming more like Jesus, his grace covers us even when we forget, fail or can’t be bothered.