(I had the opportunity on Saturday to give a brief talk to the women of our church about how my practice of the spiritual disciplines has developed. This is the first of three parts.)
God kindly saved me at an early age, but it wasn’t until my late teen years that I started to understand the idea of a daily practice of the spiritual disciplines. I had thought that personal study of the Bible was something that only pastors or “super-spiritual” Christians did. Sure, I had been told (from the pulpit) of the importance of daily “quiet times” – but I didn’t really think the idea applied to regular believers like me. Then I began to learn of friends who sought to practice the spiritual disciplines, to set aside time to read God’s Word and to pray; as I heard about their practices and what they were learning, I began to realize that God means for all Christians to commune with him in these ways. So with a little instruction and a little fellowship, I began.
At first, I set aside time right before bed to read the Bible and to pray. “I’m not a morning person,” I thought, “so I’ll be able to focus better at night.” I kept this up for years, but my practice was very inconsistent. By the end of the day, it was easy to let other things crowd out that time with the Lord (and night-time prayer quickly morphed into sleeping!). When others mentioned the benefits of setting aside time to meet with the Lord in the morning, I inwardly scoffed, “That just wouldn’t work for me. I don’t have to be that legalistic.” But I also felt a tiny prick of conviction, a budding awareness that it was only my pride and self-sufficiency that led me to think I didn’t need to renew my mind with Scripture until the end of my day.
My practice of the spiritual disciplines grew gradually through my late teens and early twenties, but in the Lord’s providence a few things merged together to transform my limping habits. First, marriage to a godly man provided daily fellowship; knowing that, over dinner, Aaron would ask me if I had met with the Lord that morning gave me strong motivation to do so! Second, our church’s teachings on having a plan for reading the Bible and on meditating on Scripture gave me better tools for benefiting from God’s Word. Third, an extremely difficult and ongoing trial made me aware of my desperate, daily need for grace and help from God and his truth. God used these three things – fellowship, planning, and recognition of my need for him - to change my practice of the spiritual disciplines from an occasional five-to-fifteen minutes before bed to a regular 45 minutes to an hour with him almost every morning. Having a more consistent, longer quiet time first thing in the morning doesn’t earn me any points with God; instead, this time is a means of grace to me, an opportunity for me to meet with the Lord as he has revealed himself in his Word, to preach the gospel to my unbelieving heart, and to steep my soul in truths that I need reminders of daily.