If there is any habit that I am truly committed to, any ritual that borders on “religiosity”, it is my daily time with Jesus, reading the word and writing prayers in my journal.
This has been a pretty consistent practice since my years in college. I fell in love with the practice in Santa Cruz on a Campus Crusade for Christ Leadership Training Summer Project. We would get up every morning, creep out into the northern Californian mist, and sit on picnic tables quietly scribbling away in the journals they gave us. The best day of the week, in my opinion, was Tuesdays when we would have three hours of “quiet” time—literally. We were asked to be ready at 9 am with bibles and journals in hand, and then we were sent forth in silence to be with God in any part of the city. I loved going to the local book store and getting a giant frozen chai, listening to CDs on my Walkman (classic 2002), praying, imagining and drawing with Jesus.
It was the first time in my life that I could sit still for three hours, even losing track of time.
Since those early years I have pushed myself to keep this practice. Every morning my aim is to pray and read scripture and be ready for what God has for me that day. It is a very grounding practice and many times offers a mix of challenge and encouragement. (Challenge especially when I am trying to read through Leviticus or Chronicles…)
All this is not to pat myself on the back. Quite the contrary actually.
This morning I sat down with my bible and journal for the first time in about two weeks.
This may not seem that long at first, but as I sat down and began devouring the words on the page I realized how important this discipline actually is to me. I sit here now realizing how much I missed my special time with God, how much I missed hearing from him, how much I missed Jesus these past two weeks.
This is not to punish myself or humiliate myself. It is just an honest reflection. I had plenty of good reasons to not be reading (well, what seems like plenty of good reasons). I was tired, busy, had meetings, was with my family or was on an airplane. And I do not think God is angry with me; I just think he missed me too.
One of Alastair and my good friends here in Vancouver said something so profound a few weeks ago and today it is ringing in my ears. He said, “If you believe God wrote this book, the One True God, would you not spend every moment of your life reading it and trying to understand it? … If you knew that the living God were listening to your prayers and was ready at a moment’s notice to give you what you need and talk to you, would you not constantly be on your knees, praying for yourself and for those you love?”
What was incredible about this man’s words, the part that stopped me in my tracks and cut me to the quick, is that this man is an atheist. Someone who does not know God understands the unique gift of the Scriptures, the living word of God, better than I do. Someone who does not pray, understands the gift of prayer better than me, someone who has prayed for her whole life. He helped me see that the Bible is an unimaginable blessing and prayer a privilege of immeasurable worth! How great, generous, merciful, kind and caring is our God that he would bestow these gifts upon us?
Since many of you are quite intelligent, I am pretty sure you can read the writing on the wall, my point is pretty simple: read your Bible; pray to our God daily; make time for him, no matter what.
This is not meant to be pharisaical or empty ritual, but in a way I think the discipline is religious. It is habitual, it is faithful, it is consistent. Somedays it will feel pointless or rushed, other times it will be what gets you through the day. Either way we are asked by God to put everything we are before him always. But more than that, God is at the other end waiting for us. He is eager to speak to us, to hear our prayers, to answer with love or comfort or strength. He has worked for centuries, millennium, to preserve his story and his Word for us to hold in our hands and hearts. Sometimes I forget what an incredible gift I have before me each and every time I approach the Word in prayer.
A daily bible habit, “quiet” time, or Jesus party, whatever you want to call it, I believe is an essential part of my Christian walk and yours. Part of me wants to sweet talk you into practicing our religion. Part of me wants to kick you (and me) in the pants and say “Just do it”.
I don’t really care what gets us to our knees every day, as long as we get there.