Christian life is nothing but friendship with Christ. Before Christ came, there were only a few who were called the friends of God. But the coming of Christ has opened a new era of manís relationship with God. Jesus came to make God and man friends. The very first thing Jesus did when He began His work in public was to recruit a handful of men from all walks of life to whom He could demonstrate the friendliness of God. Eventhough these men, called disciples (followers), addressed Jesus as Lord and Master, He said, "I will not call you servants. You are My friends!" (Jn 15:15). Blessed privilege!
Everyone who has repented of his sin, turned to God, and believed on Christ the Mediator, has been reconciled to God. He has become a friend of God. Any friendship must be nutured. It cannot develop of its own. The most important requirement to grow deep in friendship is spending of time. Unless we spend quality time with God, we cannot enjoy His friendly character. This article explains how to spend time with God.
Choose a fresh hour. King David was a busy ruler. But he had set aside the early hours of the day to meet with God. "O Lord, in the morning my prayer comes before You" (Psa 88:13). Both in the Bible times and throughout history, men and women mightily used of God had been early risers. They met God before meeting men. John Bunyan said, "He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day!"
Itís important that you stick to this time whatever the reason. You must take this seriously as an appointment with the King of Heaven. Daniel was a young man taken captive to Babylon. Folks there were hostile to his religious beliefs. There was even a civil law which banned prayer to any god. But Daniel cared the less for all these. Nothing could stop his holy habit. "He knelt down on his knees three times and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his CUSTOM since early days" (Dan 6:10).
We see another example in the Book of Acts. The Church had experienced a bursting growth following Pentecost. Three thousand people were baptized on a single day. This suddenly multiplied the pastoral responsibility of leaders. But they never became too busy to go apart to commune with God. "The hour of prayer" was too precious for them to be sacrificed for anything sacred or secular (Acts 3:1). This they had learnt from their Master who often withdrew Himself into lonely places to pray when great crowds had come to Him for hearing and healing (Lk 5:15,16). Arenít you strict with your class hours or meal-times? So should you be with your time with God. It honours Him.
The time with God is usually called the Quiet Time. But this is not a "silent" time! Noise there is not, but voice there is. We listen to God, which means we meditate the Bible. We speak to Him, which means we pray.
Itís fitting to begin with Bible meditation. We must hear God speak to us before we speak to Him. The preacher son of David spoke these words of wisdom: "Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to HEAR rather than to GIVE the sacrifice of fools... Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart say anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few" (Eccl 5:1,2). The saintly F.B. Meyer pointed out, "Itís more needful for you to hear Godís words than that God should hear yours, though the one will always lead to the other." Yes, prayer or praise is actually our response to Godís revelation.
The Bible can be meditated devotionally or studied analytically. I talk about devotional meditation here. (For helps in analytical study, click: Be a Bible Student!)
Whisper Psalm 119:18 as you open the Bible: "Open my eyes, O Lord, that I may see wonderful things from Your Word."
Be a baby at heart when you read the Bible. God has no respect for anyone who goes to His Word as a learned professor. When the uneducated disciples received revelations from the Father, Jesus exclaimed, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babies" (Mt 11:25). We must love the Word as "newborn babies" desire milk (1 Pet 2:2).
Where to start is the question of many. Itís better to start with the New Testament for two reasons. The fact that we are now under the New Covenant falls as the first reason. Secondly, the Old Testament cannot be explained or understood without the New.
The 27 books of the NT can be divided into four sections. The four Gospels speak of the life and teachings of Christ. The Book of Acts explains the spread of the gospel which followed the birth of the Church. The Epistles mainly contain exhortations and teaching for personal and corporate life of Godís people. The Book of Revelation prophesies the future of the Church and the world. In other words, the first two sections report what happened yesterday, the third section teaches what must be done today, and the final section predicts what would happen tomorrow. Jesus Christ is sufficient for yesterday, today and forever. The message of the New Testament will enlighten your eyes to understand His riches.
Read one full chapter at a stretch. Read it twice. Ask these questions on that passage:
Any promise to embrace?
Any commandment to obey?
Any sin to forsake?
Any warning to note?
Any revelation to understand?
Any example to follow?
Any other finding?
Answers to these simple questions will bring the message of the chapter to right focus.
Thereís another set of questions you may ask over the passage you read and meditate:
What does this passage say about my responsibility to God?
And my responsibility to man?
Jesus said that "all" the Scripture is summed up in the two commandments of loving God with all of ourselves and loving our neighbour as we love ourselves (Mt 22:35-40). When specific answers to these two questions are applied in practical life, we become "doers" of the Word (Js 1:23).
Believe that what you learn from that passage is Godís message to you for the day. Probably you can claim the promise from the passage when you face a crisis during that day. The Bible is like a chequebook and its promises can be encashed anytime. The warning you received from that passage will keep you at the hour of temptation. When you are at crossroads not knowing which direction to pursue, what you meditated during Quiet Time will serve as a lamp to your feet.
Those who are regular in spending time with God invariably testify to the above fact. The daily meditation supplies us our daily "manna" (Ex 16:21). Godís mercies and compassions are "new every morning" (Lam 3:22,23).
Besides meditating on a specific passage each day, some recommend the reading of five Psalms and a chapter from the Book of Proverbs daily. This way we can read through both these books every month. The Psalms teach us our relationship with God, and the Proverbs that with men. In Psalms the Christian is on his knees, and in Proverbs on his feet. This combination balances our growth.
Underline words, phrases and sentences that appeal to you most. All of the Bible is Godís Word, but what appeals to you or stands out from a passage at that time is Godís specific message to you. The Word of God in general is "logos;" the specific word is "rhema." (These are Greek words.) Keep a notebook to jot down each dayís message. The shortest road to an understanding of the Bible is the acceptance that God is speaking in every line.
Keep chewing the thoughts of your meditation all through the day. Blessed is the man who delightfully meditates the Word of God "day and night" and deliberately marches out of the ways of the ungodly (Psa 1:1,2). Such a man will be prosperous in whatever he does (v 3). Before retiring to bed, review the dayís walk in the light of your morning meditation.
There are many devotional booklets produced by individuals and institutions. Undoubtedly some of them are quite good. But they cannot become a substitute for meditating the Bible itself. These aids can always supplement your personal meditation.
After Bible meditation, we move on to prayer. In prayer we essentially do four things. They form the acronym, P-R-A-Y. Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield.
The model prayer Jesus taught begins with the praise: "Hallowed be Your Name!" We are commanded to "enter into Godís gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise" (Psa 100:4). You may sing a song of praise (v 2). We have so many worship songs and choruses these days. You will experience a new release as you lift up your voice to bless the Lord. The presence of God will be real because He inhabits the praises of His people (Psa 22:3).
Praise can take two forms: worship and thanksgiving. When you praise God for who He is, thatís worship. Praising God for what He has done or is doing is thanksgiving. Do both. The first two verses of Psalm 103 are memorized by most Christians from childhood. Verse 1 is a call to worship: "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name." Verse 2 is a call to thanksgiving: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." Itís said, "The pulse of prayer is praise and the heart of prayer is gratitude."
God reveals Himself primarily through the pages of the Scripture. Let what you learnt about God from your passage of meditation be turned into praise. You might have read in that portion about Godís Omnipresence, Omnipotence or Omniscience. Praise Him for that. Or you might have met Him in that passage as a Creator, Saviour, Restorer, Lover, Keeper or Giver. Exalt Him in praise with appropriate words.
Your praise may also have one of the many redemptive names of Jehovah as its subjectó
Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord our Provider (Gen 22:14)
Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord our Healer (Ex 15:26)
Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord our Banner (Victor) (Ex 17:15)
Jehovah-Míkaddesh, the Lord our Sanctifier (Lev 20:8)
Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord our Peace (Judg 6:23,24)
Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord our Shepherd (Psa 23:1)
Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness (Jer 33:16)
Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is Present (Ezek 48:35)
Repentance is an integral part of prayer. David prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa 139:23,24). The hidden things of the heart surface when we quieten our hearts before God. An old hymn says, Take time to be holy.
The Holy Spirit does not convict us to condemn us but to correct us. We have Jesus on the Throne of Grace to sympathize with us and succour us. He was tempted like us in all points but He never yielded. Therefore from Him we receive both forgiveness and enablement (Heb 4:15,16). When we open up our hearts before Him, thereís instant cleansing by His precious blood (1 Jn 1:7-9).
Our repentance must concern not only our sins against God but also our sins against our fellowmen. Jesus taught us to pray, "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us" (Lk 11:14). Confess before God all anger, jealousy, backbiting and hatred. There are sins of commission as well as sins of omission: Doing what we should not, and not doing what we should. Jesus warned, "If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Mt 6:15). Decide to make reconciliation and restitution wherever necessary and delay not to do it (Mt 5:23,24).
Prayer without a spirit of repentance is a waste. The Psalmist had known, "If I do not confess the sin in my heart, my Lord will not hear me" (Psa 66:18). "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Prov 15:8).
Exaltation of God and examination of ourselves are sound preparations for submitting our petitions before Him. In the former we acknowledge Godís worthiness, and in the latter our worthlessness. Both are a logical must when we go to a king for his favour. But this King is also our Father! So letís now present our needs before Him with reverence and with a realisation of our privilege.
Nothing is too small to be mentioned before God. What should we think of the patient who told his doctor he was ill, but never went into details? Importantly there are four needs we should regularly pray for.
a. Intellectual need
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom" (Prov 4:7). Even in his dream Solomon requested wisdom when God asked him what he wanted! (1 Ki 3:5,9,10). We all lack wisdom and so need it. God is the source of all wisdom. The wisdom which comes from Him is pure and all sufficient for our responsibilities and relationships in the world (Js 1:5,6; 3:17). Prayer for wisdom pleases God and He grants it liberally when we ask in faith.
b. Physical/Material needs
This is pertaining to food, clothing, health and such bodily needs. Jesus taught us to pray for "our daily bread." Set aside all anxiety and worry and trust the Lord of all riches for your needs of today and tomorrow. Jesus is the Lord of the body also. Pray for healing and health, safety and protection. If you have some chronic illness as a "thorn in the flesh," seek Him for removing it. If He chooses not to heal you, He will grant you sufficient grace to live above the handicap by His strength (2 Cor 12:7- 10). If you donít get all you ask, itís because God intends to give you something better.
c. Spiritual needs
Our spiritual needs are numerous, but specifically we can think of three here. First of all, victory over temptations. Pray, "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One" (Mt 6:13). Mere desire and determination to keep ourselves from yielding to temptations does not guarantee victory, necessary though. The Lord admonished His careless disciples, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The mind indeed is willing, but the body is weak" (Mt 26:41). We must seek Godís strength everyday to fight the enemy.
Understanding Godís will is our next spiritual need. Life is full of choices and decisions. Choosing between good and bad may be easy, but God requires that His children choose between good and better. King David prayed, "Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day" (Psa 25:4,5). God is pleased with those who truly seek His counsel.
Thirdly, pray for power to witness for Christ. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt 5:13,14). The salt should not lose its saltiness and the light its brightness. It is the power of the Spirit that makes us dynamic in speaking for Christ (Acts 1:8). Our Heavenly Father freely gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Lk 11:13). No doubt we have to face mockery and persecution when we testify for Christ. And it is natural to feel shy and hesitant. But the Holy Spirit fills us with boldness and zeal when we wait before Him (Acts 4:31).
d. Social needs
Family, friends and folks are our social circles. Our prayer can influence each of these. Pray for their salvation, problems and needs. Donít excuse yourself saying you have too many problems yourself. The fact remains that when we are genuinely concerned with others and voluntarily involve ourselves in their suffering, the Lord has His own way of taking care of our lives. The man Job stands as a classic example. The Lord restored his losses when he prayed for his friends! (Job 42:10).
These four areas namely intellectual, physical, spiritual and social are nutshelled in Luke 2:52 which covers the fourfold life of a balanced Christian.
We now come to the fourth section in prayeró
Prayer time is an occasion to humble ourselves before the Lord. Saints have found this chorus meaningful to sing on their knees:
Spirit of the Living God,
Fall afresh on me;
Break me, melt me,
Mould me and fill me.
We are by nature proud and self-willed. True prayer breaks this nature in us. The Gethsemane prayer of Jesus is the best illustration on yielding to God: "Not as I will but as You will!" (Mt 26:39,42). While fighting Satan, having done all, we must "stand." While praying to God, having said all, we must bend!
Follow these four steps in prayer with a conscious effort to start with, and in course of time it will become quite natural. However, prayer is not easy. You will normally encounter the following difficulties.
Satan rocks the cradle to make us sleep on our knees. To avoid sleepiness, change of posture is suggested. Though kneeling is best, you may also walk and pray. Or you may change over to reading or singing. I do most of my morning prayer when I go out for jogging or bicycling.
Choose a place of least disturbance. Jesus and the apostles went to gardens, mountainside and riverside for prayer. We are taught to shut our rooms and pray (Mt 6:6). In any case, disengage the telephone during the hour of prayer! When unnecessary thoughts flood your mind, resist the devil in the Name of Jesus and claim victory (Js 4:7).
Pray whether you "feel" like praying or not. Throw your worries on Jesus. Let not the devil take advantage of your difficult situations (1 Pet 5:7-9). Turn everything to God in prayer with praise and thanksgiving (Phil 4:6).
What a Friend we have in Jesus;
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
When you kneel before God in the morning, you can stand up to anything during the day!
(To learn more about prayer, click: When You Pray...)