Some people spend many years answering “no” or “not really” to the following questions from their Christian friends.
“Did you get in the Word this week?”
“Have you had a consistent time of prayer this week?”
“Did you get in a quite time/devotional recently?”
I have had seasons like that in my own life. The weeks and months pile up and the thought of private time in the Word becomes an accepted source of permanent discouragement and hopelessness. Some Christians accept this pattern and live with it for years. Others decide that private times with God are not really important and dismiss any lingering conviction or desire with a new accent on being a hard working Christian, more of a “get it done” than “devotional” type.
I am all for hard working Christians, and I know that none of us will be who we want to be fully until heaven. However, it is good to remember that being a Christian means being in relationship with God, that no relationship functions without communication, and that the Word and prayer function as our primary conversation with God. God speaks to us in his Word, and we speak to him in prayer. ( I’m not denying other ways that God reveals himself, just pointing out that God has already spoken to us and re-speaks the truth of his Word through his Spirit.)
To be a Christian that never reads the Word and never prays is to claim a relationship dominated by silence. In human terms this would be disastrous and quickly destructive. It is only because of the patience of God that such long silences can be followed by such gracious renewal. (God is much more patient than a retreating-and-silent spouse, and more forgiving than a long-abandoned friend.)
When I have failed to read the Word consistently or pray faithfully, it is a good adage that starting small is better than not starting at all.
If you look back at weeks and months of silence in your relationship with God, here’s how I would begin.
1. Repent of the pattern of neglecting the Lord. (Repentance takes a while to prove, but only a moment to express.)
2. Confess your belief that God is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness through Jesus Christ. (Again, thinking a brief moment here–penance is not Biblical. Trusting Christ is.
3.Pick the simplest time in the day. (Mornings are outstanding, but if you’re starting from nothing, pick the time that seems the simplest to you right now. 10 minutes on a lunch break is more relationship than no minutes in the morning.)
4.Start small and daily and Today…i.e. Week 1: 1 verse a day, followed by 1 minute of prayer. Or if that seems too small, try 1 chapter a day (5 minutes?) and 5 minutes of prayer. Starting tomorrow is less certain than starting today. (2 minutes before you fall asleep tonight doesn’t even require a schedule change.)
5. Tell one friend your goal and then ask him to call you in the middle of the week to encourage you.
6. Grow your goal. Week 2: 2 verses a day, followed by 2 minutes of prayer. Or read 1 chapter a day, plus 5 minutes of meditation on that chapter, and 5 minutes of prayer (15 minutes?)
7. If you miss some days, just start again.
With starting small and gradually increasing our habit, by the end of the month one person could be up to 4 verses a day, and 4 minutes of prayer. This would be much better than the silence of the month before! Or if they started at a one chapter a day mark, they could be up to 20 minutes in the word and 20 minutes in prayer/meditation. Excellent progress.
There is an obstacle to this plan. Many of us are tempted by self-pity. Self-pity is simply dissapointed pride. Self-pity says, “if I can’t be amazing I’d rather not try at all.” Or “God deserves so much every day, so I’d rather claim unusual busyness and burden than give him less than he deserves.”
Of course God deserves more! Of course maturity in Christ would look like much more time than I’m currently spending in the Word. He is worth more than 1 minute a day, or even many minutes a day, if we are truly honest about his greatness and love. But self-pity is not honoring to Christ and starting small is more glorifying to Him than not starting at all.
Start small. Be faithful in a little. God is gracious, and our desire and discipline will grow. Let the silence end.