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In some seasons, time may be short. But even then we can seek God hungrily, begging Him to speak to us.
As a college kid in northern Michigan, I could hardly wait to get alone with God.
I'd surrendered my life to Christ as a freshman and during the following 3 years eagerly sought Him at every opportunity.
I especially liked snowstorms. Some nights, when studying in the library, I'd see snowflakes falling outside the windows.
A hunger would rise within me to be out in the storm talking to God, much like the hunger described in Psalm 42:
"As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God." (New American Standard Bible).
Soon I'd race to my dorm, drop off my books, then take off into the night.When the wind howled and tore at my parka, I felt the power of God.
A carpet of white blanketed the evergreen boughs, and I sensed His majesty. The snow swirled around me, blotting out everything but me and God, and I heard His voice.
By day I had more normal quiet times, of course, often scheduling an hour between classes to pray and read God's Word. I'd squirrel away in a corner of the student union -- or perhaps, Bible in hand, sit in a pile of dead leaves.
Those were glorious days, days to leisurely reflect on what God was saying to me through His Word.
I don't walk in snowstorms much anymore. And as a father of 2, with heavy responsibilities at work and church, I find little leisure time in my life.
The odd moments get filled with things like paying bills, reviewing my son's homework, or phoning a friend at church about an upcoming meeting.
Yet still I want to walk with God. Still I want to draw strength from Him, reflect on His Word, take my concerns to Him.
The tricky part is making the time. But I must.
"No matter how urgent the responsibility, your private watch with Christ is most important," admonishes Patrick Morley in I Surrender.
"Whatever the distraction, come apart to be with Jesus. Be late for your appointment if you must, but don't be distracted from Jesus."
Morley points out that time with God will cause us to become less easily upset, less easily sidetracked and more effective in whatever we postponed.
Nevertheless, the leisurely hours I had in college have long since fled. Each of us has a similar predicament -- the amount of time we carve out for God will vary at different times in our lives.
This shifting amount of time leads to "seasons," if you will, in our quiet times -- seasons in which we approach God in different ways and for different periods of time.
Take a young mother -- like, say, my wife. When our two children were pre-schoolers, Dawn had much less time with God than when she was single.
As a result, she put more emphasis on prayer than Bible study -- first, because she could pray as she walked around the house, and second, because every time she sat down with a book the kids jumped in her lap.
In some seasons, time may be short. But even then we can seek God hungrily, begging Him to speak to us.
"During those moments when you come into His presence," writes Morley, "seize the moment. Don't shirk your responsibilities, but neither miss the needed thing."
When I traveled with Paragon Experience, an evangelistic multi-image show, it seemed impossible to have any kind of regular quiet times. How frustrating!
Almost every day for 3 years, I would arise early, eat breakfast, drive eight hours to the University of something-or-other, set up equipment, do a couple of shows, go out for pizza with the local students, then around midnight collapse into bed. The next day I'd do it all over again.
I struggled for weeks over how to spend time with God. Finally I found a solution -- read my Bible at the restaurant while waiting for breakfast to arrive.
I also memorized Scripture, which allowed me to meditate on God's Word while driving the truck or walking around a campus.
"But if from there you seek the Lord your God," teaches Deuteronomy 4:29 (New International Version), "you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul." God met me there in the restaurant.
There's a trap in this, of course. Those few minutes can become a perfunctory duty, something to check off our to-do list without much thought. After a year and a half with Paragon, I'd fallen into this trap.
Then God led me to Psalm 84 and kept me there for 3 months. Every day, I read the same verses. Eventually it dawned on me that I no longer "yearned for the courts of the Lord."
Fortunately, God was gracious, and as I meditated over and over on this Psalm, God rekindled my love and passion for Him.
Without question, it's better to have more time with God.
"God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him," writes author A.W. Tozer in Renewed Day by Day. And since God wants us to know Him, we can expect seasons when more time is available.
When I traveled with Paragon to Europe, for example, I encountered language barriers, which led to time on my hands, which led to loneliness.
But the loneliness drove me to God. One afternoon in Switzerland I climbed a buttercup-spangled mountainside, exulting in the presence of my Lord.
When I began to wish for a friend to hike with, God pointed out that had another person been present, I never would have enjoyed such a wonderful time with Him.
Seven years later, when my daughter, Heidi, was born, I was neither lonely nor did I have time on my hands. It seemed that whenever I settled down for a few minutes with my God, a cry or a whimper would summon me.
For a season I talked to the Lord while pacing the house holding Heidi in my arms. Often I'd sing songs of praise, as much to worship God as to comfort my daughter.
Heidi and her brother are older now and can read for themselves. Heidi, especially, likes to get up and join me in a quiet time, but the attention span of an 8-year-old is short, and she soon leaves her children's Bible for something else. Now that I have more time to meditate on God's Word, I'm entering a new season.
Living in Florida, I probably won't walk in many more snowstorms, but I will keep seeking God, in whatever way I can, in whatever amounts of time He gives me.
And perhaps the next generation -- at least 2 of them -- will follow my example.
“I don't have a set time, but I prefer to have my quiet times in the mornings before I go to school, before I do anything. That way I have something to focus my day on.
First, I try and make sure I'm right with God by confessing and repentance. I ask Him to fill me with His Spirit, and I make sure every area of my life is right with Him.
Then I like to spend 10 minutes or so praising God with a sing-along tape. I also like to be silent before God and let Him speak to me.
Then I pray for everything: lost friends, personal needs, spiritual needs.
Finally, I read a passage and try to study and analyze it.”
“The way I spend time with God has evolved.
When I went to college I started writing my prayers out to God in a journal and keeping track of them. It helped me stay focused, and my prayer life grew in depth and length.
After I graduated from college, a friend encouraged me to try "praying without ceasing." I had almost become so addicted to my prayer journal that I couldn't pray without it.
So throughout the day as thoughts hit me or I see someone who needs to be lifted up, I pray.
In addition to trying to pray without ceasing, I am doing a book study [from the Bible]. I just read a few verses a day and pray about what God is showing me.”
Ministry to Bikers
“My wife and I do a devotional reading together each morning immediately after breakfast. We read it out loud to each other and then pray together.
Our denomination also has a newsletter about our missionaries around the world, and we pray for them. It's important to us to have a broader perspective than just our family, congregation or nation. God has a world view, and we need to be in tune with Him.
On my own, I pray for personal guidance and wisdom. And I pray for the bikers we're trying to reach out to.
Another thing that has been helpful is to read from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. It's good to freshen myself with the Word by using a different translation than I'm used to.”
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