Most Christians want to feel connected to God but struggle to stay consistent reading the Bible and praying. Sometimes that is a result of being too busy. Many times it is because we have good intentions but poor plans. In my opinion it is often because we do not fully understand how to make reading the Bible and praying meaningful and enjoyable. Things that we enjoy we do. Try going on a diet that starves you. You will grit it out for a while but living a life where you are always hungry is not sustainable for most people. Why do you think so many people lose weight only to put it back on again?
Although you may need more discipline in your life (who doesn’t, right?) chances are that it is not more discipline you need but more joy in your devotional life. Think of it like a relationship. Would you feel like your marriage was strong if you only did things together as a couple because you were disciplined and had a daily checklist? I doubt that kind of relationship would last very long. You may need some discipline to get started, but you need to enjoy each other’s company eventually or your relationship will not last.
Here are a few thoughts on how to connect with God regularly through prayer and Bible reading and how you can learn to love it.
· Learn the why of the goal before you set the goal.
Why do you want to read the Bible and pray? If it is simply because you feel guilty or the preacher told you to, then you will probably not get much out of it. Before long you will begin to feel like something is wrong with you because you don’t enjoy it. Most likely you will continue in the cycle of frustration that keeps you thinking that you must not love God very much because, if you did, you would not struggle so much.
If, however, you desire to connect with God and grow closer to him, then that changes the dynamic. It changes your motivation and your thinking. I have often heard men express the reason they don’t read the Bible is they don’t like to read. Yet they will read voraciously to learn the stats of numerous athletes so they can win their fantasy football league. The problem, then, is not that they don’t read the Bible because they don’t like to read, but because they think they can’t understand the Bible and, therefore, they don’t want to do it. They probably did not learn the why of the goal before they set their goal. Identifying the why changes the dynamic. Once you discover the goal behind the goal it motivates you.
· Schedule around your goal.
This is very important. You have to put the “big rocks” into your schedule first. If you want to connect with God, then you have to see it as a priority in your life. It will probably require that you change your schedule. You can’t treat a priority like another add-on. This is true of any goal. You won’t exercise if you don’t treat it as a big rock in your schedule. Neither will you read the Bible and pray regularly if you don’t prioritize it in your schedule.
· Set yourself up for success
This is where many stumble in their devotional life. They set goals that are unreasonable. They fail to take into consideration their own rhythms and the unique way that God created them. I like reading the Bible and praying to start my day. That is my best time and I am definitely more consistent if I plan it at the beginning of my day. But if your rhythm is that you are not awake until after you have been up for two hours, then you are not actually reading the Bible but just changing your sleeping position. It is possible that you need to go to bed earlier so you can start your day earlier. But it is also possible that you need to change your schedule at lunch or when you get home or your routine before you go to bed.
The point is you need to set yourself up for success. Find out what connects you to God best and do it. You do not have to do it like everyone else.
· Celebrate the win
Celebrating the win can be as simple as checking it off your daily list. I am motivated by completed goals. More importantly, you celebrate the win by sharing it with others. Tell your spouse, a friend, or a small group member what you have been reading. Tell them what God is speaking to you about. Ask them to share with you what God is doing in their life. Share it with a fellow volunteer at church. By sharing it, not only are you celebrating the win, but also, you are speaking into their life. This kind of fellowship is encouraging to you and them.
I hope that you will find yourself closer to God in 2016 than you have ever been. You can connect with God through consistent Bible reading and prayer. I am declaring by faith that 2016 will be a great year for you and for Avalon Church!