It’s something that every Christian should be doing, its something that we know we should look forward to doing, but often it becomes a drag and something to be done quickly and got ‘out of the way’ so that we can get on with the ‘real work’ of the day.
Here are a few thoughts that I’ve gathered together over the last few years. They’re my thoughts, not rules, so feel free to adapt, ignore, adopt. As you’ll see some of them appear contradictory, but hold opposites in balance and you’ll be able to walk the tightrope:
- Mornings are the best time – as someone said, “You don’t tune your instrument after the performance”
- The best helps for Bible reading are a pen, a notebook, and a brain determined to seek out what your Saviour is saying.
- Keep changing the format, so that you don’t get stuck in a rut. If you use reading notes, try a commentary. If you use a commentary, try using a blank notebook and a pen.
- Don’t feel you have to persevere to get a particular book of the Bible finished, if your only reason for keeping going is just to get it finished. Stop and go elsewhere, and then come back to it.
- Sometimes I read a section from a Puritan author to start with. Their godliness and love for Christ warms the heart and fans the embers into flames as you approach the throne.
- Pray Paul’s prayers for different people you know. This is a great help when you find yourself stuck in a rut, and praying the same old things for the same old people. Use a different prayer for each person, and change them around the next week. It also focuses us on asking for things that are really important.
- Don’t view your time with God as ‘quiet time’ or ‘Bible reading time’ or ‘personal devotions’. These focus on the act itself, rather than on God. It’s about relationship. He is your Father, who wishes to communicate with you. You are his child, who loves and is loved.
- Realise that it’s not primarily about what we get out of it; it’s about being with God, and worshipping him and delighting in him. As Tim Challies pointed out, “When I spend time with my wife, I don't think about what I can get out of it – I just enjoy spending the time.”
- At the same time, don’t use that as an excuse for not putting effort in to receive from God. He is generous and gives to all.
- Pray through your Bible reading. Turn information into worship, challenge into request for help, conviction into confession, provision into thanksgiving.
- Realise that you will get into a rut. Realise that you will go through dry seasons – I happens to all God’s saints. And God uses them to teach us. Be ready to be taught. And keep on persevering.
- When you miss your daily time with God, through no fault of your own, don’t mentally torture yourself. God is gracious and he understands. Utilise as many moments throughout the day as you can to be with him.
- Don’t use that as an excuse for not making an effort to spend time with him each day.
- Beware of holidays. A break in the routine is hard to cope with. You think you will have more time, but you won’t, unless you schedule carefully.
- Memorise scripture. It gives you something to chew on for the day.
- Don’t be disappointed if you can’t remember what you read last week, or two days ago. I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago, but it did me good at the time.
- Read big chunks of scripture. Don’t settle for one or two verses a day. Read chunks; meditate on smaller bites. Here’s a great Bible reading plan for the whole year – with slack built in.