First dates are so nerve racking. You spend hours picking out the perfect outfit. Then spend another couple of hours with hair and makeup. Spray the perfume. Look at yourself more in the mirror than usual making sure everything is perfect. You probably put on a different outfit after getting completely ready because something isn’t right. Spend another frantic fifteen minutes trying on different tops, only to put the complete original outfit back on. The anticipation of the unknown creates those little butterflies. Then you hear the knock at the door.
Small talk begins at the door, but then as the date progresses through the evening, the conversation flows a little deeper. Just by spending a couple hours with the person, you know whether or not date number two will be coming. Chances are if you like that person, you will continue dating them–getting to know them a little better date by date.
Over time, the more you get to know someone, the more you grow to like them (if not you’re breaking up). Before you know it, the first date butterflies are gone, and you’re so comfortable with each other and real with each other that you don’t hide anything–even those nasty farts (please, Lord protect me!).
The once awkward, trying to impress first date has now blossomed into a no-more-pretending relationship.
The point: the more we get to know someone and the more they get to know us, the more comfortable we get–we aren’t pretending anymore. We can just be real.
Getting to know someone on any level starts with conversation–whether that’s your now best friend, husband, boyfriend, co-worker, kids, etc. The only way we get to know someone is by spending some good ole fashion quality time with them.
Now relate this to God.
How much time are you letting God get to know you? And how much time are you getting to know God?
Just like in our earthly relationships we have to spend time with someone in order to get to know them, we have to do the same thing with God. If we want to know God and let Him know us, we need to be talking to Him.
So how do we do this?
If you said reading your Bible, praying, and going to church then you would be correct.
But for real, are you actually doing these things?
If you’re not, please be encouraged and hear me say–YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.
Getting to know God and letting Him get to know me was hard to do! It was just like the first date we just talked about–AWKWARD. Conversation felt extremely one-sided, with yours truly being the only talker. I was trying to impress God by my effort. But in return, I only received silence.
Somewhere along the way I figured out God didn’t need me to impress Him–He didn’t need the glitz and the glam. I realized God accepted me as I am (nasty farts in all).
Being REAL with God made a big difference in our conversation.
This time it wasn’t one-sided. But unfortunately things called Netflix, school, friends, family, sleep, and church quickly became more important. I was too busy or too tired to spend quality time with God.
Finally in college, God really grabbed ahold of my heart (specifically my priorities). I knew I needed to get to know God for myself and allow Him to get to know me. Over the next few years, my time with God became more than just something to do because I knew it was right, but really it was building my relationship with God. This relationship actually brought forth life in me, all because I was simply allowing myself to be known by God and getting to know Him. I wasn’t looking to impress God with my works, but rather just be me.
What does spending time with God practically look like?
Spending time with God or “quiet time” I think looks different for everyone. I’ve listened to how my friends spend time with the Lord and just kind of made it my own, which I think is key.
Your relationship with God is personal to you–it’s not someone else’s relationship; it’s YOURS.
So if you’re looking for an exact list of what works when spending time with God, then look somewhere else. This is not a list of all the dos and don’ts when having a quiet time, but rather some suggestions as to what works for me. And just being honest up front, this has taken me years to figure out. It’s been a process of trial and error and really a discovery of how my heart hears from God.
Take from this whatever you want! Change it. Mold it. Make it your own. But most importantly it’s not about the HOW but the WHO! Focus on God. Spend time with God. I promise that will be life-changing.
Find a time that works best for you.
Most days, my time with the Lord is right before I go to bed. It’s an easy way for me to tell God about my day both the highs and the lows. But I’ve also found it provides me with rest for my anxious heart. It hasn’t always been right before bed; sometimes it’s right smack dab in the middle of the day, or in some seasons it’s in the morning. My mentor won’t let her feet hit the floor until she’s started her day with Jesus. But find what works best for you!
Let me also share this disclaimer: sometimes my time with Jesus is completely silent in my room (or at Garden of the Gods), and other times I’m doing my quiet time in the middle of a cabin with 15 middle and high school girls. There may be times when it can’t be silent and that’s okay, but I have found that in the silence that’s when I can hear God’s still small voice the loudest.
Worshipping is a huge part of my personal quiet time! It fixes my eyes on God and not on myself. It literally prepares my heart for what God is going to say to me. I listen to worship pretty much all the time, but it focuses me on God–the one who is in control. Right now, I don’t usually listen to worship music when I’m actually reading through the Bible simply because there’s something about the quietness that I have grown to love, but then there are times when the worship music is on especially if I’m at the coffee shop. I do get distracted by the lyrics sometimes, so Bethel Music has a couple of albums that are instrumental! Check those out!
It sounds way more intimidating than what it really is. Not everyone does this, but again, find what works for you! The point is to TRY! Back in high school I got in the habit of keeping a notebook with all my sermon notes, but my prayer journal has evolved a lot since then (check out the pictures below for how I organize my prayer journal). And I love it. I genuinely write out my heart to God. Whatever is on my heart, God hears about. Some prayers are 2 sentences to 2 pages. It just varies, but like David did in the Psalms, he pours out his heart to God. I think that’s what God wants. God knows us and knows what we are thinking before we ever ask, but God still wants us to communicate our cries to Him. He wants us to willingly share our hearts with Him. So for me, my prayer journal is exactly that–an opportunity to pour out my heart to him.
Some people use a certain method of praying, but I just sort of pour my heart out without a specific order. But generally, the A.C.T.S. Prayer Method is what I include in my prayer journal, it’s just not necessarily in this order.
I use the Markings. I found it at Target a few years ago, but now I just order them online. It’s my favorite!
Read the Bible
This is key. So often I believe people think spending time with God is just saying a quick prayer. And yes, you are spending time with God, but if that’s all you do, then you’re in a one-sided conversation and you’re the one doing all the talking. Give God a chance to speak into your heart. This may be awkward at the beginning, but it won’t be long before you see God’s very Word having a direct impact on your life.
Remember this has been a work in progress over the years. I’ve had the desire to be in God’s Word, but struggled to keep the commitment. Every time I would decide to read the Word, I would get one of those daily devotional books, or download an app with a 365 read through of the entire Bible. I loved the idea of reading through God’s Word in a year, but if I skipped a day I was going to do the day I missed plus the current day. Then I found myself like five, long chapters behind reading the Word and just gave up because of the quantity.
So what I have found that works for me is usually using a NavPress Study Book as a guide. I found these at a local book store and have now used these books ten different times. I keep recommending them because they offer so much! Some lessons are longer than others, but it’s not about quantity but quality time. So if you only get to read 3 verses, that’s okay. It’s not a race or competition. If you slow down when you read God’s Word, that’s when you’re opening the door to truly experience Him. These books offer a “For Further Study” option, personal application questions, study guide questions, key pieces of information to help you better understand the context or historical significance, and so much more. I genuinely would love to have the whole series, but I’m not quite there yet.
I would also suggest the S.P.E.C.K. Method as a starting place to reading God’s word. You’re not always going to have something for every letter in a single passage, but the point is to slow down when you read so you don’t miss God.
Again, these are simply ideas to help you get started. Below are the ways I set up my prayer journal. If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Me and I would love to help you get started!
Remember, it may be similar to a first date, but don’t pretend or mask yourself with makeup. Be you. God already knows what’s beneath the surface, so just talk to Him. It won’t be long before you’re completely captivated by God! You will genuinely have a hunger for God like you have hunger for food.
Organizing my Prayer Journal:
Excuse the mess of the picture, but I use my prayer journal for everything. So what you see here is an attempt at labeling how I set up my prayer journal. Let’s start at the top. Each page is labeled with a page number. I also include the date, but with the date, I like to include the day of the week. This is super helpful looking back at previous prayers. Then when I’m doing my quiet time, I write the study I’m going through in the center of the same line as the date. Then I label the “activity.” I call my personal quiet time “Be Still” but if I’m at church for church notes, I label it “NorthWoods” or if I’m listening to a sermon online, I will label it whatever it is I’m listening to. When I was in Ecuador, I would label the activity something corresponding with Ecuador. To me this is important because I want to accurately label whatever it is that I’m doing so I can look back at a sermon notes, my quiet time, camp notes, mission trips, online sermons, etc. For my quiet time, I always start with prayer. This portion may be anywhere between two sentences or 2 pages. Then after I pray, I will write the lesson I’m on from the study book I’m going through. This particular one was Day 2, and beneath that is the Scripture I read that day. Underneath, are the notes I took from the day’s study. Sometimes I write these in my prayer journal and other times, I write them directly in my Bible, or both!
The example to the right is some of the sermon notes I take from church. But I put everything in one place. I know other people like to have separate notebooks for everything, but for me, I can easily reference something if it’s all in one place. It’s also super cool to see God speaking to me between all the different “activities” (I need a better name for that).
The last page of my notebook is where I place my favorite verses. If God speaks to my heart in a verse, I will write it down in the back of the notebook and work on memorizing those verses. It’s super cool writing God’s word on my heart, especially when it’s verses that have encouraged or spoken truth.