If you want consistency in your daily devotions, it’s helpful to have a plan. And to keep from becoming discouraged, you should plan on being flexible.
You don’t have to script out every detail. But if you wake up in a different world every day, you’re increasing the likelihood that distractions will throw you off course. And if you’re too rigid, you’ll miss the pleasant surprises that often accompany the unexpected.
I learned the value of both many years ago during an impromptu weekend getaway.
No reservations required… usually
I was living in the Middle East at the time and I needed a break. So I decided to fly to Northern Cyprus. I bought a ticket, and a few hours later I was on my way. I had been there a couple of times before, and I thought I could just work out the details as I traveled. There was one problem. I hadn’t made a hotel reservation.
It was late when I arrived. I took a taxi to the coastal town of Girne (Kyrenia) and, to my surprise, every hotel was packed. Though the tour groups were scheduled to depart the next morning, I was in a bit of a jam for the night.
Pulling my carry-on behind me, I walked to a small restaurant that catered to the locals. The place was empty and the waiter was stacking chairs. But he invited me in anyway and I ordered a bowl of lentil soup. I told him my story, and he was nice enough to allow me to stay for a while as he continued to clean up.
The disruption in my “schedule” took my mind off of autopilot for a while. Though I was “homeless” for the evening, I remember being filled with a sense of thanksgiving, knowing that God was watching over me.
It was about midnight when I left the restaurant and made my way to the harbor. I found a secluded spot near the ruins of an ancient Roman castle and, with no other options, settled in for the evening. I fell asleep in the cool night breeze, illuminated by the moonlight reflecting across the Mediterranean Sea.
It wasn’t a very well-thought-out travel itinerary. But as a memory, it remains one of my favorites. I couldn’t have planned it that way. And looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Making the proper application
Over twenty years have passed since that night and I’m married now. I’m thankful that I have an adventurous wife. Knowing her, she would have enjoyed that experience too.
But what if the memory of that special moment persuaded me to never make another travel reservation? What if I always showed up at my destination, wife in tow, and started looking for a place to stay? I have a feeling that the frustrations might soon exceed the rewards. The memories might cease to be so pleasant.
I think it’s common to approach our devotional life in this way. We just show up, if we show up at all. We certainly don’t need reservations. And that may tempt us to assume that no preparations are needed either.
We might tell ourselves that God deserves more than a routine. And He does.
And we might long for spontaneity in our daily walk. And we should.
And after all, God is everywhere. He already knows our thoughts. And He, more than anyone, understands the reasons why we couldn’t quite get alone with Him today. And once again, these are all true.
But what is the real reason we avoid a plan when it comes to our daily devotions? Is it because we want to keep it pure and unstained by the sweat of legalism? Or are we afraid that we’ll disappoint ourselves and God?
5 “Prep Steps” for a consistent quiet time
As long as we don’t go overboard, a simple plan can help us to be more consistent in our daily devotions. The following 5 steps can eliminate most of the distractions that throw us off course:
- Decide that you will spend at least a few minutes alone with God today.
- Decide where you will have your quiet time. (Choose a quiet place, free from distractions.)
- Decide when you will do it. (Choose the time of day when you will have the fewest distractions.)
- Decide in advance what section of the Bible you will read. (This is better than just opening the Bible to the first verse you see.)
- Gather what you will need beforehand (e.g. Bible, prayer list, journal, pen, etc…).
This is simple stuff. But thinking through these issues in advance will give you an edge in the battle for consistency.
Time alone with God deserves a plan
I’d like to think that it was my adventurous spirit that saved the day in Cyprus. But it wasn’t. The truth is I was disorganized and a bit lazy when it came to the details. It was God, and not my failure to plan, that made the difference.
Spending time alone with God is worth a little advance work on our part. So I encourage you to have a plan. And then be flexible on the days when it all seems to fall apart. Meet with Him anyway. He’s still there. And He’s still God. At the very least, you will have taken one more step toward consistency in your devotional life. And even better still, you may end up with a breakthrough, or an insight, or a memory that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.