I love this idea! If you need a little something to help your devotional time along during December, this is a great idea… read the passages, write them out, meditate on them… let these truths soak in!
Monday I sat down and helped two friends organize their prayer journals. Here’s how it went:
Identifying Groups of People
On a piece of scrap paper, write down all the groups of people that you want to pray regularly for. The list might include: immediate family (self, husband, kids), work or husband’s work, extended family, church, small group, Bible study group, friends, nonChristians/outreach/neighbors, sports teams, kid’s teachers and friends, missionaries, etc. Your list might be different. Think of them as circles of influence. Who are you willing to commit to praying regularly for?
Now, how many days a week are you committed to having prayer time? In our group, we committed to five days a week.
Next, try to group your circles of influence together, for the number of days you plan to pray regularly. In my case it looks like this:
Mondays – Husband’s work & Extended family
Tuesdays – Bible study group, Book club group, Women I disciple
Wednesdays – Church general/ leadership and ministry, Small group, & Missionaries
Thursdays – My friends, My kids’ friends & school, Tennis team, Other nonChristians
Fridays – My immediate family, including myself.
Next we divided the journal into sections of roughly equal length, put tabs on the side for each day, and wrote “Friday – Our Family” or whatever.
There’s also the Emergency 911 page. In the front of my prayer journal I keep an Urgent Prayers page. I don’t write on the page – I use sticky notes. If it’s urgent, I hope it’s not permanent, and in a few days, when the note is full, I can either quit praying about it (ie. Algebra test), or move it to a more permanent section of the journal.
So on a Friday morning, I sit down with my coffee and I cover the Urgent 911 prayers. Then I flip to the Friday section and pray through the list for my family. I date the request on the left, keep the request to one liner, and write a date on the right side of the page when the issue is resolved. Later, when the journal gets fuller, I will probably start at the back of the section and work my way forward, praying for everything that has not yet been answered.
I also encourage writing verses in your prayer book, claiming them (and highlighting them!). I also tape prayers, photocopied bits, and good quotes inside.
What a priceless treasure it is to hold a prayer journal that is several years old… I can see instantly how God has been so incredibly faithful, time after time. Praise Him!
So now you’ve picked your quiet time spot – mine is a black and white chair in the bedroom – set your alarm for earlier, and started reading your Bible every morning. In the basket next to my chair I keep my Bible, pens, colored pencils (don’t bleed through the pages), sticky notes (reminders for later), and my journal.
Why do we journal? Isn’t that a habit you left behind in 4th grade?
We journal for at least three reasons:
(1) Self discipline. Every day you read, every day you write. Just pen a couple of lines about what you read. Don’t write a novel, you’ll never finish your quiet time. You might note the chapter number and what topics or stories were in the that chapter. If you’re pursuing a question like “How does this passage reveal the character of God?” then you might jot a few notes about that. If a verse jumps out at you, write it out. If there’s something you don’t understand, note the verse number and put a big question mark. (Then when you have time later ask someone else what that verse meant, or go look it up in a commentary.)
(2) Reflection and Release. One day recently I sat down for my quiet time but, honestly, I was too mad to think about reading Ecclesiastes. So I made a list in my journal instead titled “Why I am So Grumpy Today”. It’s kind of funny when I look back at it two weeks later, but it was a useful exercise. By making the list I got a lot of the angst off my chest. I also was able to reflect on how significant (or insignificant!) some of my issues were. I gained perspective. I turned that list into my prayer – and I told God that I wasn’t going to carry all those rocks around with me all day! I think I made some progress.
(3) To See Patterns and Progress. Since January I have read Luke, 1 & 2 Samuel, and Ecclesiastes. All my notes are in my journal. My sermon notes are there too (taking notes helps me pay attention in church… fight the ADHD tendencies!). I am learning things and I can look back and see it. That’s really encouraging.
Also, did you ever notice that when God wants to address an issue with you it crops up everywhere?! Whatever topic is on His mind – and He wants me to pay attention to – keeps reappearing in my quiet time reading, in sermon series, in articles I read online, and in other books I’m reading. God is amazing at choreographing life input so that I will get the message! You can see this pattern if you are journaling.
Try journaling! It’s an excellent discipline and will contribute to your spiritual growth, if you’re willing.
So, now you’ve been convicted to get serious about reading your Bible. Where to start?
MY RECOMMENDATIONS (and that’s all they are – not gospel truth!)
Ask a lot of questions of yourself and God:
• How well do you know Jesus, his character, his heart, his message? If you have never read the Bible, start with John or Luke. You should work your way through one of the four gospels and study Jesus.
• How well do you understand the “grand narrative” of the Bible? Do you know the main storylines? If you have gaps in your historical knowledge, then start with Genesis and move forward. You might try a chronological Bible. If you know the “grand narrative” well, then you should feel free to read books and events outside of their place in the chronological storyline.
• Then pick a plan and START READING. Keep reading until you have read the whole Bible. Then start over again. Keep doing this for the rest of your life!
Know yourself and what you need to stay on track.
• Do you need a checklist of some sort? (Most of us need something!)
• Do you prefer to read only 1 book at a time, or can you follow multiple books at the same time?
• How much time are you willing to set aside for reading every day? Does that include journaling and prayer time too or not?
• Make a plan that you can stick to and find success in. If you get stuck (say, in Leviticus) then change your plan, skip that part, or ask someone to help you find a way to make that part more interesting and applicable.
• Ask a friend or mentor to keep you accountable. VERY IMPORTANT.
To read through the whole Bible in a year you need to read 3-4 chapters a day, which takes about 30 minutes (and that leaves time for a little journaling, but no rabbit trails!).
My personal preference is to read 1-2 chapters a day, aiming for 6 days a week. On average it takes me 3 years to read through the whole Bible.
Once you have picked a place to start:
• Think of a question to ask as you read along. Something like: How is the character of God revealed in this book? How does Jesus relate to people in this book? What does love (or mercy or friendship or justice or obedience or etc.) look like in this book? What can I learn about the character of man (or sin, etc.) in this book?
• Read a little background information on a book before you start – most Bibles have a 2 paragraph section in the front of each book with the author, audience, time, key themes.
• Jot a few notes in your journal everyday – chapter themes, key people, key issues, something that was important or new to you. Resist the urge to write everything down!
• Write in your Bible! It’s ok! And it’ll help you remember and find things later. Colored pencils are great for this because they don’t bleed through the pages. (If you’re old school and have a paper Bible still!)
• Read, read, read – keep reading.
• Ask God to use what you are reading in your life, to give you an opportunity to apply or share what you’ve read. Seeing the usefulness is very motivating!
The passages are arranged in chronological order, with prophets & psalms mixed into the historical narrative, etc. This type of Bible is extremely helpful to get the overall picture of events. I like this version (below) best because the references are in the margin, which is helpful when Kings and Chronicles are merged and the gospels are also merged… yet it does not disrupt the flow of the narrative. I recommend this type of Bible for the historical narrative only – not for long-term study because the essence of the individual books (author, audience, key message, context) can be lost. * NIV Daily Bible Chronological Order
ONE YEAR BIBLES
The passages in these Bibles are grouped into daily readings – usually 2-3 chapters of Old Testament, 1 chapter of New Testament, a psalm, and some verses from Proverbs. Some people love these because it helps you not get stuck in a “boring section”.
THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR READING PLANS
These checklists come in two styles: (A) Mixed readings from OT, NT, and Psalms everyday or
(B) One book at a time, usually 3-4 chapters a day. If you google Bible reading plans you will surely find something that suits you.
I use a chapter checklist for whole Bible – available for download on my Resources page. I just keep checking chapters off until I’ve read the whole thing. It’s helpful if you’re not necessarily reading in order.
*This text is available for download and distribution on my Resources page. Share liberally!
You have to turn off the T.V., get off your computer or your ipad, hang up the phone, put down that book and go to bed at a decent hour! A rested person is better able to stay awake and to hear God speak through His Word.
2. Choose to Get Up
When the alarm goes off in the morning, DO NOT hit snooze! If you have kids, then you already know that it’s only quiet before they get up. Quiet times usually do not happen after the kids are awake (unless you are lucky and they still nap!)
3. Pick a Regular Spot and Time
Find a comfortable, quiet place that preferably is not your bed! Choose the time of day that’s best suited for you to start a regular habit of reading and praying (ideally – in the morning before your day starts). Have a pen, marker, and pad or journal on hand to write down any prayer concerns, questions, thoughts, summary of the passage, etc.
4. Read the Actual Bible
Devotional readings are nice and can augment your time in the Word, but don’t let a devotional reading replace actually reading through the Bible. The whole Bible is the spiritual food God intended for your soul and mind to receive. Devotional books are more like snacks. (Suggestion: start reading through the short books of the Bible first in order to gain some momentum)
5. Just Download the Files!
The Bible is the Software you need to download onto the hard drive, which is your mind. Don’t quit because you don’t understand everything in your Download. Just keep reading! The Holy Spirit, who is your Operating System, knows what to do with the Word of God even if you don’t yet! Also, you can get some help from another believer, or a good commentary.
6. Make Your Time Enjoyable
See your quiet time as a date with Jesus. He wants to spend time with you, and He wants you to want to spend time with Him. (Suggestion: have a cup of coffee or tea while reading in your favorite chair or part of the house)
7. Avoid the “Tyranny of the Urgent”
Have a separate pad of paper (or Post It Notes!) available to write down random thoughts and things-to-do that pop into your mind. Tell Satan thanks for the reminder and that you’ll be sure to take care of all those things just as soon as you’re done spending some time with Jesus.
8. Get Accountability
Meet with someone weekly or bi-weekly to share with each other where you’re reading in the Bible, what you’re getting out of your quiet times, and pray for each other.
It is my great joy to have been meeting lately with some girlfriends who desire to make “quiet times” a part of their daily lives! By “quiet times” I mean daily Bible reading and prayer.
I have been praying for many months that God would surround me with spiritually hungry women – and He has. I suppose that’s a prayer He loves to answer!
As I sit and talk with them one-on-one each week, I am excited by their desire to learn and to do and to see God change in their lives. I am also reminded that there are many traditions, habits, and pieces of historical and cultural knowledge that churched-people sometimes assume everyone knows. If you didn’t show up in church until you were in your thirties, there’s probably a whole bunch of stuff you don’t know… and it’d be nice if someone explained it to you! (Even if you were in church, you might have snoozed through some of it!)
In coming days I will address Quiet Time Basics for anyone trying to develop this discipline in their own life, or anyone looking for resources on the topic.
My prayer for these women comes from Colossians 1:9-12: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joy…”