4 tips for spending time with God
The size, desperation and persistence of the crowds surely felt suffocating to Jesus. You can’t blame the crowds. If you had a chance to be healed, hear spectacular teaching and catch a glimpse of the one rumored to be the hope of Israel, you’d go running and pushing too. So how would Jesus keep a full heart and clear mind? How would he nourish his soul? How would he stay on mission? How would he know whether to help one person or the other? How would he know if he should preach here or heal there?
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
Before naming the twelve apostles, “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12).
After feeding the five thousand, “Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:46).
Before he asked the disciples who they thought he was, “Jesus prayed in private” (Luke 9:18).
Before a breathtaking encounter with God, known as the transfiguration, Luke 9:29 sets up the story by saying, “As he was praying.”
Luke 5:16 reveals that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Do you get the picture? Jesus consistently searched for quiet time to spend with his Father.
Todd Clark wrote, “Changing your outer world will not necessarily change your inner world, but changing your inner world will always change your outer world.” Some mixture of chaos, struggle, disappointment and intensity usually occupied Jesus’ outer world. But his inner world was rock-solid. You can’t control many situations, but you can nourish your soul, which always impacts your outer world. You can spend time with God that will change your inner world, but doing so can be difficult. So here are four tips that I see from the Mark 1 passage:
- Make time. When my mother-in-law has to wake up before the sun rises, in order to work the early shift, she says, “I had to get up at dark-thirty.” Dark-thirty is no fun. When the alarm awakes us, it feels like Obi-Wan and Darth Vader combine powers, forcing us to stay in bed. Jesus, while physically running on fumes, still recognized that time with God trumped sleep. Your schedule may not be so packed that you need to rise at dark-thirty. But I’ve completely wasted enough free days to know that I still need to make time. Every morning our family reads our Bibles while we eat breakfast. Maybe you could start with this. Maybe you could commit to praying right after lunch. We all have twenty-four hours, so the question is, “Will you make time?”
- Find a Place. Jesus needed to get out of the house and out of the town. You may not need to plot an escape from your house, but you may still need to find a place; a closet, patio or coffee shop will do. You may even need to put in some headphones, if your kids are as loud as mine. And by the way, if people really need you, they’ll find you. Peter and the others managed to find Jesus on the mountain, interrupting his prayer time.
- Just start. Almost everything difficult in my life is difficult to start. Whether it’s working on a sermon that feels stuck in the mud, dealing with a difficult leadership issue, starting an awkward conversation that needs to be had, exercising, or mowing the lawn, it’s hard to start. Once I start, I’m usually OK. And I’m always glad when I’ve finished what I intended to do. I imagine Jesus was more than a little groggy when he walked out the door and headed for the mountain. But as he climbed the mountain, his heart quickened with joy. And as he prayed, he was so glad that he sacrificed the sleep. If you struggle spending quiet time with God, just start. Just do it. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Just start reading. Just start praying. Just start. You’ll be glad you did.
- Start Small. You can start small. If you’ve never spent time jogging, don’t commit to an hour trail run every day for the rest of the year. You might complete one run, but you’ll be toast by the second day, and you’ll never do it again. Likewise, start with a small goal. You could commit to turning off the TV when the weather comes on, and spending those ten minutes with God. You could wake up five minutes earlier. You could take your Bible to work and read during lunch. You don’t need to start at dark-thirty on the mountain. Start small. But put it on your calendar, set an alarm and be faithful to your small, but life-changing commitment. Seriously, put it on your calendar and set your alarm. Now. Go ahead, I’ll still be here when you finish.
I have a friend who will tell you that the most spiritually significant moment of his life took place when he committed to reading his Bible before reading the sports page of the newspaper, which had been his habit for forty years. When he began seeking the Father before the box scores, it re-ordered his world.
Jonathan Edwards said people could intellectually know that honey was sweet, based on research and the testimony of trustworthy friends. But they will really know the sweetness of honey when they taste it.
You may say that God is your first priority. You may know that the Bible gives life-changing challenge, wisdom, truth and hope. You may know that God hears your prayers. You may know that God is love.
You may know that quiet time with God is sweet. It’s time to taste it.
Crucial, related post: Before you dive into any tips, check your motivation.
Want more about this topic? I preached a full sermon from Mark 1 on 2/8/15.