“You shall have no other God’s before me.” Exodus 20:3
When I begin mentoring a man seriously, I’ll often ask them this, “Make a list of your gods.” They never include the one I’m addressing in this blog.
God said in the very first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” If I didn’t have a block of time regularly (preferably daily) to devote solely to the worship and study of God, I think it’s quite reasonable that God would conclude that everything else in my life was more important than him!
And just for the record, I don’t think much of the One Minute Bible, having your only reading be Oswald Chambers or some other brief devotional, praying while on a treadmill, or listening to a sermon on the radio. Those are all great things to do, but in my opinion are not substitutes for worship, real Bible study or serious personal prayer.
If we were meeting with our most important client, or our boss, we’d never talk to him from a treadmill, or spend one minute getting to know him. It’s not that it can’t be done. I do pray occasionally as I walk or drive. I just can’t imagine God being truly honored by slipping him in when it’s convenient. If I were God, I’d want to know that for at least 15-20 minutes a day, I have your undivided attention and loyalty. If not, I’d conclude that almost everything else in my day was another god! “You shall have no other gods…”
There may be godly men or women who don’t have a serious, regular time alone with God. I’ve just never met one.
So, here are a few simple ideas to begin: Studying Scripture
Pick a specific time each day (preferably in the morning or whenever you are most alert) and make a covenant with God that this is your time with him. Don’t be discouraged… it may seem like work at first, and expect Satan to discourage you, but you will grow to enjoy your time with God. When I “miss” a day or two during the week because of travel, illness or sin, I try to make it up on Sunday morning. I’m not legalistic about this, just disciplined. It’s a great way to begin the week. In the vein of “you shall have no other gods”, I also have the practice of not reading anything each day until I’ve read scripture (no email, Facebook, or news).
Before you open your Bible, remind yourself that you are in the presence of the living God. You are about to read a love letter from God to humans. Take a minute to ask God to reveal himself to you, and ask the Holy Spirit to bless this time of study and to be your teacher.
If you have a difficult time waking up in the morning, make a cup of coffee or tea. Relax and enjoy your time with God.
Begin by reading twenty-thirty verses a day from the Bible. The Gospels of Luke, John and Matthew are great places to start to gain the “mind of Christ”.
When reading, substitute your name in place of the person or people being spoken to. God is speaking to you. Underline important verses and write down questions you have to ask your pastor or mentor.
Stop and take the time to meditate on a thought or concept which the Holy Spirit will place on your heart. In what specific way will your life be different today because of what you have just read? Perhaps it’s a “10 second moment”.
Invest in an easy to understand Study Bible (i.e. NIV Study Bible) and read the author’s comments when you do not understand a verse.
I would suggest that your prayer time follow your time of Bible reading.
I first learned to pray using the “ACTS” principle of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and S This will help you put God first in your prayers. (More on this below.)
Consider using 3” x 5” index cards to help you remember your praise and prayer requests. Have one card for each general subject and write on the top these headings: Praise Items, Sick or Hurting People, Non-Christians, Church and Staff, Missions and Para Church People, Personal Needs, Family and Friends, etc. Personally, I’ve chosen not to put these on my computer or phone, so I’m not tempted to read messages or anything before my time with God.
Consider praying out loud. Hearing your own voice softly will help you concentrate on your thoughts. Pray with excitement, expectation, and passion.
Where is the Jesus to whom you are praying? If you think of him “way up there” he’ll be distant to you. The Bible says he lives in us and around us!
Sing to him. Some of the greatest praise is in song. There is excellent praise music available to sing along with or just sing by yourself.
Pray often during the day. When impure or discouraging thoughts invade your mind, or when good things happen to you just take a moment to ask Jesus for help, confess or thank him.
The ACTS Principle for Prayer:
Begin by praising God for a new day!
Dwell on God’s presence in your life and his promises to you.
Recall as many names for God and Jesus as you can remember and think about their meaning:
The Lamb Our Shield Anointed One Bread of Life Counselor Shepherd God Almighty King of Kings, etc. Creator Redeemer High Priest The Rock
Confess each day’s sins specifically, preferably as soon as you are aware you have committed one. Then take the time to meditate how, with God’s help, you can avoid repeating that sin. (Make a pre-decision.)
Confess and correct immediately any ill feelings, anger, or resentment against any person. Read Matthew 6:14, 15… you cannot fellowship with God when you are at odds with one of his children.
Begin praying for your enemies, that they will be happy, that they will grow closer to Jesus and that their ill feeling toward you and yours toward them will be gone forever.
Confess to Jesus how you’ve presumed on his grace and forgiveness to sin.
Thanksgiving This is self-explanatory. Just thank him for everything you can think of. Use your prayer cards.
Pray for others first, then yourself.
Pray through your schedule and every person you plan to be with today. Ask God to give you “radar” for the spiritual, emotional or physical needs of those people as well as the strangers you’ll meet today. Chapter Nine, The School of Jesus in The 10 Second Rule has many more ideas for making your time with God productive and inspiring.
My Disclaimer My time with God isn’t always great. There are days my mind wanders because of sin, anxiety, lack of sleep. I don’t always know why my spiritual life is occasionally flat. It’s complicated.
When that happens, I’ll confess it to God and ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me. I base that on this passage from Romans 8:26, 27 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
One of the foundational rules of the 10 Second Rule is this: Christian character is shaped less by your big dramatic decisions than by the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of simple obedience. Nowhere is this more applicable than in spending time alone with God daily. It will shape your life in ways you can’t imagine today. And, someday at your funeral your family will be able to answer, “At 6:00 a.m. we always knew where our mother or father was.”
Question: Would you share with us some of your own ideas for a personal time alone with God?
How following Jesus works in real life.
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