You’ve set aside time to be with the Lord, either in the morning when you wake up or some other time during the day. But when you come before the Lord you feel unmotivated, tired, you constantly yawn, you feel sleepy, you may even fall asleep, your mind is going everywhere; it’s just boring. You can’t even remember what it is you prayed for or read from your Bible after you leave the place of prayer. You go for many days without time alone with God, then you get serious again, but just for a few days, and the up and down cycle just continues. You wish you were consistent and excited about prayer or personal Bible study, but that’s not always the case.
Many of us certainly will identify with this scenario. Our desire to know God more is not always met with everyday actions that see the desire fulfilled. It’s a struggle every believer faces. But it is not a struggle that many seem to overcome or know how to overcome.
Many believers would admit to being complacent and spiritually unmotivated. We don’t plan to be unserious about our relationship with God, yet it more often than not happens that we find ourselves failing behind in spiritual disciplines.
There are all these songs out there about the presence of the Lord being a place to be. I couldn’t agree more. There’s no place like the presence of God, there’s nothing more wonderful than spending time with the Lord. It brings an animation to our personal lives like nothing else will do. It is a place of refreshment, renewal, strengthening; a place to lay down our burdens and cares and take up the joy and peace of the Lord; a time to cast our fears on the Lord and have our faith in his love, faithfulness and power encouraged. No doubt the Bible says:
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
The entire psalm 91 lists the blessings that rest upon the soul that makes the presence of God a dwelling place.
With all these promised blessings, why is it many of us do not actually enjoy the presence of God? Why is it only few actually find quiet time with the Lord an exciting moment? Why is private prayer a boring experience? Why is it that even when we are in the habit of spending time with the Lord, there are times we just can’t wait for that time to be over, so we can go do something more exciting.
They could be different answers to these questions. Two that I think of involve our heart attitude and also things we do (or don’t do) that influence how we approach and spend time with God.
If we do not consciously make a decision to fight against and overcome spiritual complacency, we would not help but be complacent.
The things I’ll mention in the points below would be of no use unless we adopt an attitude of pursuing the things of God through ‘Gritted teeth’. That means taking a conscious decision to spend time with God, to study his Word, no matter what, because we know how important that exercise is to our overall Christian welfare. If we do not discipline our bodies and act out what we know, there’s no way we can overcome spiritual complacency; we would only have the talk but no walk.
It is not enough to have time dedicated to being alone with the Lord. That time must be rewarding, else it becomes formality, a religious exercise done to satisfy our feelings and hyper-sensitive consciences.
Just so I don’t repeat some things, I recommend you read 4 Hindrances to developing an intimate relationship with the Lord and 9 Wonderful ways to ruin your quiet time with the Lord
That said, let’s look at simple things we can do to make our time with the Lord enjoyable and rewarding. Some of these are so mundane I wonder why it took me so long to realize their influence on personal time with the Lord. I guess some may actually be funny to you depending on your culture and environment, for these are things we sometimes do, though not for the purpose of having them influence our spiritual lives.
All but two involve our bodies, because it is that part of us which poses the biggest hindrance to pursuing the things of God, for the Scripture says, ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41). With these, I believe we can see the willingness of our spirits prevail over the weakness and hindrance that is many times our body.
They are listed in no particular order.
- Give your body enough rest.
This is what I am currently doing. There are days I still find it hard going to bed early enough. Sometimes because of many ideas flooding my mind, I may not quickly fall asleep in the night, and I’ll have to get up and work on the computer. But I have made a decision: no matter when I finally fall asleep, I’m going to give my body the rest it needs.
This may not be anything to someone else but from where I am coming, it’s a great step. During my legalistic years, I was actually taught that if I wake up after the Muslim call to prayer, my prayers would be useless and my day not blessed. It is a shame I believed that, but yes I did. I even read a book by a popular preacher who basically implied that a good Christian should not be in bed after 2 a.m.; you should be up praying or studying.
That mentality made me guilty each time I got up to see it was past 5 a.m. It was one reason why I hardly had morning devotions all those years, or when I did, it was all ritual to salve a guilty conscience.
Having recovered from legalism, I still wanted to wake up early in the morning to spend ample time with the Lord before I begin my day’s activities. I tried several times to keep my quiet time with the Lord at 4 a.m. Sometimes it was successful, but many times it was not. Depending on when I went to bed, my body would still be tired and sleepy, and my mind wouldn’t pay attention to what I was reading.
That way, it was difficult to be consistent in spending time with the Lord. And consistency is very important. Spending little time with the Lord on a daily basis is more effective than spending long irregular moments with him.
Any Christian discipline can be transformed into ritual. The purpose of every discipline must then always be at the forefront of why that discipline is to be engaged. That way you’d always have the right attitude towards it.
If your body is tired or sleepy, there’s no way you can enjoy your time with the Lord.
A tired and sleepy body could be a result of overeating, lack of exercise or lack of enough rest. Treat the body well. Treat the cause instead of forcing the body to go through an exercise aimlessly.
- Begin with singing.
I don’t say always begin with singing. But it’s good to begin with singing if your body is unmotivated or your mind is distracted. A cool worshipful song is a great way to rein in your wayward mind or stubborn body. I find that after singing for a while, the resistance of my body simply gives way and I am able to enjoy fellowship with the Lord.
- Find the right posture/environment.
Take a posture and/or look for an environment that will not encourage you falling asleep while in prayers reading the Bible. You may need to stand or walk around instead of lying on the bed, sitting or kneeling. You may need to leave the bedroom if the sight of your bed makes you want to go to sleep.
- Physical exercise
I bet all of us are familiar with that scenario where our body doesn’t just feel like it… the body is just not in the mood. Except, of course, in carnal things that need little to no motivation, such as binge eating, watching TV or aimlessly browsing the internet.
There’s a reason why physical exercise is called keep fit. It not only implies fitness in terms of health, but also in terms of agility and having a body that is light.
If you find morning devotions or quiet moments with the Lord boring because of your heavy body, then physical exercise is what you need to overcome that. I also find that physical exercise helps against yawning during prayer.
Remember you don’t have to be overweight to have a ‘heavy’ body. Your muscles simply need some stretching to make them agile again.
- Discipline your appetite
The mouth is one area in which lack of discipline affects other areas as well. An undisciplined mouth results inevitably in an undisciplined body generally. This applies to speech as well as food. One way to tell your body the spirit is the boss is by disciplining the mouth. One reason why you may find it difficult disciplining yourself to pray or study the Word could be because your mouth is undisciplined. It eats whatever the eye sees, whenever it sees it and in what amounts it wants. It vomits out whatever is in your mind without thought as to the effect of your words on your listeners and on you. There’s no control, no restriction. As such the flesh gains dominance over the spirit. The spirit’s willingness and desire for the things of God is then overridden by the body’s lack of subordination.
It is amazing what a single day of fasting and spending time with God can do in terms of taming bodily desires. That effect can and should be encouraged through a daily discipline of the mouth on what and how it eats.
When to eat is equally important. If you want to spend time with the Lord very early in the morning, don’t eat later in the evening. It’s even not advisable for your health. Don’t give your body work to do when it’s supposed to be resting, else you get up in the morning very tired.
- Change scenery
There’s a spot outside our house here where I love sitting and chatting with God. I sometimes resent the fact that where I presently reside there are no lonely areas where one can go to and just be alone with God. That makes me planning on when I build my house, I would designate a large room only for prayer and studies with nothing inside except a table, chair and flowers. And then I’ll have a large lawn where one can sit and just be alone, praying or studying.
In the open air, the mind is less clouded than when in a stuffed room. You can gaze into the sky as you worship God, beholding the wonders of his workmanship.
The closet should be understood in terms of you being alone with God, not necessary a quiet place of prayer indoors. You can choose to take a walk along a less busy path, on the lawn, etc.
- Visit with God. Enjoy God!
That is what quiet moments should be – visiting with God. When you visit a friend, if it is a true friend, you don’t spend all the time talking. You also sit and silently enjoy each other’s presence. You don’t only talk ‘serious’ issues. You also have informal discussions.
When I started out as a new believer, one excuse I had for not spending time with the Lord was that I didn’t know what to pray for. I desired to pray, but I didn’t have what to say that was really ‘important’. If I only knew that I could just visit with God, just come away with him, sing to him, or just be and say nothing, I could have turned that desire into action, spending time alone with the Lord.
The same could be said of fasting. We think of fasting when in dire need, but we can equally discipline our bodies and not eat, not because we have some pressing need, but because we just want to come away from all distractions and just visit with the Lord, spend time thinking about him and letting him speak to our hearts.
- Practice the presence of God
Live in the presence of God every moment. He is always with us, but we are not always conscious of that reality. But we can teach ourselves to always be in constant communion with God by being aware of his ever presence. We can talk with him as we go about our normal activities. Then, when we come to being alone with him, it would no longer be a tedious exercise to discipline our minds and our bodies.
Personal private relationship with God should be a lifestyle with believers. Our desire to know the Lord more should prompt us to look for ways to overcome whatever obstacles and hindrances are on our path. These could involve major or simple changes.
We spend time, energy and money, making changes to areas of our lives as deemed necessary. That’s the same attitude me must have concerning our personal walk with the Lord. We must put in the time and effort it deserves to succeed.
I pray this post blesses you enough to motivate you to action.