As we enter a New Year, many of us get a new determination to change some things in our lives. For me, it has often been about weight loss, exercise, organization in my home, and, of course, renewed commitment to my personal prayer and Bible study time.
December has a way of stealing many of my Bible study and prayer times, and that is pretty sad since the season is supposed to be about my Savior, Jesus. The last several years have been better because I became an empty nester. Yes, to-do lists try to steal my attention and time, but I have managed better.
And this year, one of my good, out-of-state, fellow pastor’s wife friends (that is a mouthful) challenged me to join her and other pastors’ wives for a private Facebook Bible study! She even sent me a devotional book (thanks, Sandy), and four or five of us posted something every morning. Talk about peer pressure! I didn’t want to seem “unspiritual” to these amazing godly women! (Okay, we are pretty real with each other when we get together so it isn’t like that!) But the accountability was fantastic.
What about you? How are you doing with your personal prayer and Bible study? It is only January 12, so join us in this renewed commitment. Do you need accountability? Join a Bible study, or do what we did on Facebook with a couple of friends. Ask a close spiritual friend to ask you how you are doing. Do whatever it takes to help you grow in the Word and in your heart.
But, you might wonder, what do you do for Bible study/prayer time? I actually get asked this question by others looking for ideas or suggestions on this very thing.
So here are some ideas for you to consider. Just please be realistic about what works for you, your personality, and your life. For instance, I had one friend who rode the train downtown to work so she did her study then. When my girls were little, I’d go walk before my husband left the house and listen to sermons in my headset. If you love audio books or podcasts, listen to those while doing the elliptical or driving. Once my girls hit junior high and high school and could basically get themselves ready, I would get up early before they came downstairs, to do my study/prayer time. Find something that works for you.
Tips and suggestions:
1. If you are doing your study/prayer time in the morning, stay off social media until a certain time of the day.
If at night, put your phone in another room. Social media is a time killer, and I have to make my heart and my relationship with God a priority. He definitely wants me to love others and care for them, but social media is just that—social. If I get on social media, I get sucked into so many other things—checking the calendar, working, looking up a picture to send or post, etc. I go off on trails, and before I know it I have lost precious, valuable time with God.
2. Pick a good version of the Bible.
I love the NIV (New International Version) 1984 version Bible. I know there is a newer NIV version, but it includes some gender-neutral things I am not too crazy about. I got my mom an ESV (English Standard Version) Journaling Bible because she can do word art in the margins – so cool for her and other artists! I have studied how and why each version got started, so let me just reassure you to just pick what you can understand and apply to your life!
3. Keep note paper near you during your quiet time.
Why? Because if you are like me, you think of something you are supposed to do or get that you forgot, or someone you are supposed to contact (we are human!), and you can jot yourself a reminder note without being interrupted. Yes, I had to learn this one the hard way! But it is soooo helpful. We can’t help it, women—something will prompt a reminder, even during our quiet times!
4. Make the setting as cozy and as wonderful as you can!
Get your coffee or tea, sit a place you love. (In the winter I light a fire in my gas fireplace, and in the summer I go out to the sun room.) If you keep your Bible, your study, and your prayer journal there, you’ll always be ready! You will miss it if you love the setting and your study. Which brings me to the next point…
5. Use a plan or a Bible study workbook.
Seriously. Otherwise you wander aimlessly, and it will be hard to commit to the time if you aren’t getting something out of it. And pick something that will be meaningful to you in the stage of life you are in. It will help your passion for studying God’s Word and living for God in your daily life! See the bottom of this post if you need suggestions for what to study.
6. I’d like to suggest a notebook or blank journal for your prayer journal.
Or you can write on your laptop or iPad, but I love the paper version because I can flip back easily. Plus, I am not opening my laptop to be tempted by email, social media, etc. (Maybe I am not as self-controlled as most of you?!) It has been so great to look back at my old journals to see what God has done in my life!
Okay, how you journal is totally based on your personality. Journaling lovers write out their prayers and thoughts to God. Art lovers might do some creative word art in their journal. What works for me (as an administrative, detail person) is to use the “ACTS” method with just writing single words. It helps me keep my prayers more balanced so it’s not “ask, ask, ask” like my selfish self would normally do! Here is what it is:
What characteristics of God I adore. I praise God that He is Creator, All-Knowing, Wise, Healer, Peace-Maker, Grace-giver, etc. I often go off the Scripture I am studying that day and what I am going through in my life. The Psalms are full of ideas. But this is different than thanks.
Wow, do I need this. I love the scripture that says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9 AND I love that we can go directly to God! 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” Here are a few hypothetical ideas: Unkind to K., Jealous thoughts, attitude of entitlement & pride, selfish, coveted their figure, made my husband feel rejected, not trusted you God, etc. I love how things come to mind as I am doing my study about what is being discussed and how I can immediately write it into my prayer journal for that day.
What I thank God for. This really helps us keep perspective in our life – on what we take for granted. I even thank Him for characteristics a family member has – this is so good for a marriage! Thank God for things He has done for you or blessed you with. These thankful prayers will definitely help your attitude the rest of the day.
This is just a fancy way of saying your requests. Philippians 4:6 tells us to tell God our requests. It is Biblical. He may say no or not now, but He will hear you and answer you! I’ve seen Him heal my marriage, make ends meet, heal a friend of a brain tumor, bring my children to a personal relationship with Jesus, help lead them to amazing Christian men as mates, and so much more. And He has sometimes told me “no,” like when my good friend had a brain aneurism and was in a coma. I prayed for Him to heal her and to bring her back, but He said no. I don’t know why He says no sometimes in my life, but I trust Him in that if He says “no,” the no answer will bring Him more glory than the “yes” would. But I am so grateful that I can go directly to God for all that is on my heart.
**Sidenote: At the front of my prayer journal, I have specific things I want to pray for regularly (like my marriage, each of my family members, my church, wisdom, etc.) divided up into days of the week: M–Tim, our marriage, Parkview & our ministry T–Rachel, Ash, & Charlie; wisdom; to be Holy Spirit led; etc. You get the idea. I look back and add these daily according to the day of the week. That way I am regularly praying for these.
Here are a few ideas for resources for Bible studies:
1. Here is what I do: I pick a Bible study workbook.
Even though I won’t use it with a Bible study group. I can do these as slow or fast as I need to. No pressure. No, I don’t do the video lessons because I don’t have them. I love Beth Moore’s studies (http://www.lifeway.com/n/Popular-Authors/Beth-Moore?CID=RDR-BethMoore). I’ve heard Priscilla Shire’s studies are great too although I have never done one (http://www.lifeway.com/Keyword/Priscilla+Shirer+Bible+studies).
I have done and loved the following: Beth Moore studies “Esther,” “Jesus the One and Only,” “Believing God,” “To Live is Christ,” “Living Beyond Yourself,” and I am doing “Breaking Free” right now. Some days I work through a couple of pages, and some days I answer only one or two questions because they speak to me and I just meditate and pray on them in my life. I laugh because I took an entire year to go through “Esther”! And I was a little sick of her by the time I got done! (No offense, Esther!)
2. One friend asked if I knew of any good Bible study apps.
I recommended the YouVersion Bible app. It is great. You can sign up for various reading plans. You just have to explore it. You can even add favorite verses to photos and share them. She is so excited about it.
So I’ll end there. I am praying that as we enter 2016, we will allow God to mold us to be more like Jesus and that we will help Him do it by getting into His Word!
What ideas or studies have you done that you can recommend? Please share!
Re-committing Myself alongside You,
(*see first blog!)