You could take a power nap. You could scoot over to Starbucks to get coffee. You could even get one more load of laundry started, or maybe do the breakfast dishes. You could check your email or watch a couple of YouTube videos . . . but it wouldn’t be the best 20 minutes of your day.
I’ve wrestled with the concept of devotional time . . . a lot. My natural state is busy, always moving. It’s counter-intuitive for me to sit still for too long. Even though I had been a practicing Christian for more than ten years, I wrestled with making daily Bible reading a priority.
Over the years, I’ve carved out time to read my Bible and pray, albeit irregularly, late at night before bed, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, and, I hate to admit it, just before Bible study.
I’ve used the excuse that I don’t have time, that I have babies and toddlers, that I have too much work to do, that XYZ needs cleaning, that dinner needs to be made, that the classroom needs me to volunteer . . . the list goes on and on.
I’m sure you’ve probably got your own strategy (and maybe you have it all figured out), but for the rest of us, we still need help with carving out quiet prayer time.
Preparing for the upcoming fall church season a few years back, I said ‘yes’ to helping lead worship at my church’s regular Thursday morning Bible study. I met with the leader, worked out the details, and scheduled the dates for the music I would be sharing.
Then, one morning, I felt God tell me “no.”
Don’t get me wrong, worship and Bible study are wonderful, beautiful things. Studying God’s word, visiting with women, enjoying the teaching time, and praying for one another—plus snacks and coffee—are all good activities.
But as I tried to decipher what God was telling me, I felt him say that I couldn’t leave my quiet time with him up to the whims and wishes of my calendar any longer. I needed regularity.
Just like going to the gym or running regularly to stay in shape, I needed a plan.
I found a daily lectionary reading app and set out to reclaim the best 20 minutes of my day.
At first, it was hard to discipline myself; I was thinking of all the other things I had to do that day. Then, day by day, I began to notice how God was quieting my spirit with his presence during our daily time together. Slowly and steadily, it became a practice, a discipline.
I felt Jesus with me, as if sitting in the chair nearby with his coffee mug, cheering me on as the Bible came alive during this short burst of time. It felt like it was more than just 20 minutes of my day, because it was the VERY BEST use of 20 minutes each day.
As I processed this newfound freedom in carving out this narrow window of time each day, usually in the mornings after the kids had gone to school, I knew I couldn’t add one more thing. Even if this ‘one more thing’ was leading worship at a Bible study for two hours a week, it would take away from my new-found connection with the Lord.
I now craved the quiet, the stillness, the pause in my day where I took time out from everything to pursue my Jesus. I went from being a Martha to being a Mary.
I’d done countless Bible studies and small groups, but I realized I need a little bit, every day. Snack-sized, 20-minute increments of time with God seemed to be the right recipe to help me connect.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. – Colossians 4:2″
While I’ve heard some Christian leaders be militant about this time, like waking up at 5 am every day was the only option, my goal in writing about this topic is not to guilt trip anyone or seem as though I’ve got it all together.
Whether you take time early in the morning, at lunchtime, just before bed, or any other time that fits into your schedule, I urge you to seize the best 20 minutes of your day.
You won’t be disappointed.
Lauren Hunter is a writer who loves the big picture of God’s journey we are all on together. Married to her high school sweetheart, Lauren lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. Her latest book is Leaving Christian Science: 10 Stories of New Faith in Jesus Christ.