Quiet time, devotional time, prayer time, personal time—whatever you want to call it, most of us are referring to something similar: a regular time when we seek to meet with the Jesus, read his Word and worship Him, love Him and know Him better.
The more I am a Christian, the more it's less about rules and about relationship. As with anyone we want to get to know in a relationship, we need to actually spend time with that person in order to grow in that relationship. Saying "I love Heidi" (my wife) but never talking or spending time with her makes my love for her seem shallow and inauthentic.
"Read the Bible. Pray. Go to church." This can be a lifeless mantra after a while. However, your devotional life can and should be changed up.
As a follower of Jesus, your spiritual life is critical to your sustainability of faith. But truth be told: praying and reading the Bible is hard at times. After all, the disciples were asking that Jesus teach them how to pray and read the Bible (Luke 11:1-13). Our devotional lives don't have to frustrating, difficult or boring. Prayer doesn't have to be at the end of the day while trying to not fall asleep as you lay in bed from your busy hustle. Going to church doesn't have to be a "have to". Reading the Bible doesn't have to be quick clip from your 1 minute devotional as you are rushing out the door. If you're spiritual life is critical to your faith, then keeping your spiritual life fueled should be a priority.
Here are a few ways we can draw closer to God in different ways to keep going when your spiritual life is struggling:
If you’re a creative at heart, consider adding in an artistic element to your devotional time. Add a journal to your prayer life. I use "the blank page" in my journal as the "blank slate to my day." Before i start each day, I make it a point to add something to that blank page that is from God that He has shown me or spoken to me. Most of the time, that thought comes into play with me as I'm facing a personal challenge or as I'm encouraging others around me. Take creative time to write out or doodle your prayers, pen your scriptures on paper to memorize them and refer back to them, draw or design your application that you received from Scripture or a recent sermon. As you participate in the creative process, consider God’s creativity in the world and let your devotional life come alive. Your creative prayer time isn't an art exhibit...so relax. Simply let God inspire you with how He's made YOU. I've found that even "non-creative" people get creative by making a spreadsheet of Scripture verses as a "creative outlet" that fits their personality for them to collect Scriptures and get God's word in front of them.
Music and Film
If you’re musical, consider writing songs that focus on what you love about God. Put Scripture to song, or sing to Jesus about whatever comes out of your heart. God who sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17) has a song for you. So spend a few minutes in prayer, reading Scripture and listen with your heart. What is the lyric is for your life right now that God is singing over you? The worship song that stirs your heart lately is probably similar to the song God is singing over you now. My apple playlists have songs in them that are not "Christian" but they definitely inspire me to respond to God and others. I might have made "You're A Sky Full of Stars" a worship song in my car a few times (In my "Parallel Universe Church" Chris Martin is my worship leader...and he was amazing this past Sunday).
I also think films are modern-day parables and movie screens are our culture's stained glass windows. As you experience films, you will discover what themes or characters move your heart and stir you with emotion or passion. Odds are those feelings are tied to spiritual desires that God put in you when He made you. Those spiritual attributes will continue to affirm who God made you to be and to what you are supposed to do in life. So after you watch an amazing film that has moved you and stirred your heart, unpack those themes and talk about them with others. Not only should those movies encourage us but it gives us an opportunity to redeem culture. When you can show the character and nature of Jesus in the weekend box office, it not only encourages you to be culturally relevant but is an easy way to share Jesus with others around you.
If being outside makes your soul come alive, set aside intentional time to connect with God in the great outdoors. God created the earth and everything in it. Spending time outdoors is like spending time in the creative head and hands of God. The whole earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3)—so go and encounter Him there. Sit by a river and meditate on Scripture. Go on a hike and let the beauty of the earth remind you of God’s beauty. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to stop what you're doing and go take a walk.
There is a long and biblical history of God’s people gathering together to worship Him—and weekly church is a wonderful thing. What about spending “quiet time” together with a friend or two? You can pray for and with one another; you can read Scripture to and with one another; you can eat together and share a meal together. The early church was meeting together daily (Acts 2:42-47)...we can too. A good question to ask is, “What has God been speaking to you lately?” That question is can open up conversation between friends that will inspire you, challenge you and encourage you. Scripture says that receiving an encouraging word or powerful truth from a friend at the right time is like a “golden apple” (Proverbs 25:11) So head to your "friendship orchards" often and see what fruit is there. The more you make yourself vulnerable with others the more you can be encouraged, challenged and inspired by others. You might find out that you aren’t alone in what you are dealing with and you might learn from them what they have done so you can overcome and move forward. Not only that, but you will most likely reciprocate the encouragement to those across from you as well!
Reading the Bible is always the primary source of truth as follower of Jesus. But why not supplement your Bible reading with books from spiritual leaders who are going farther, leading better or doing what you dream of doing? I’ve heard it said that reading a book is like spending 12 years with that author. That exact number may or may not be true but I know as I’m reading their books... I’m learning from their experiences. I may not get to enter their spiritual community or their living room but I can enter their spiritual lives when I choose to read books in my area of spiritual interest. Head to Amazon right now and make your holiday reading list of books and authors. Flip through and read some titles...and see which titles "jump off the page." Odds are that's God speaking to you. I have got 7 books on my desk that I’m hoping to get through in the next few months that are inspiring to me and my current season of life.
Consider mixing up your quiet times and seeing how He might surprise you with his goodness and presence in new ways.