In the busyness of life and ministry, spending intentional time with God can sometimes lose its priority in our lives. Over the past few years of ministry, God has allowed me the opportunity to serve in some amazing leadership roles within a church setting. In all those roles, one of the biggest obstacles I’ve encountered is making room for God in my daily schedule. For me, prayer and the spiritual disciplines almost always seem to (not intentionally) slowly shift to the back seat of my priorities.
As I was reading through Colossians recently, I came across a challenging but encouraging verse about making room for the eternal. Here is what it said:
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
Colossians 4:2 NLT
This inspired me to ask: how devoted am I to prayer? Is my mind focused and alert when I spend time in prayer? Do I have a thankful heart? These questions and practices, even when routine, can bring you and I closer to the heart of God and reap eternal benefits to our quality of life (even in busy seasons!) Here are a few of the things that I am learning and hope to improve on in the new year:
1. Define Prayer
My definition for prayer has changed over the past few years. I used to define prayer as talking to God, but now I define prayer as listening to God. The problem with me talking to God is I still have this sense of control and I find myself just spouting off my checklist of wants and needs.
Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, once described that we need to find out where God is working and join Him in what He is doing. Whenever I choose to intentionally listen, I can let go and spend more time focusing on what God is saying to me individually. God is always speaking, but sometimes we can’t hear Him due to the busyness of our daily lives.
2. Focus Your Thoughts on God
I have noticed great spiritual leaders from the past have almost always spoken of finding a specific place to get alone with God. This is a place of no distractions or as the scripture describes with an alert mind, meaning no cell phones, no computers, or any other gadgets that would take our focus away from the time alone with God.
Our family lives near the beach and for me this is the perfect place for me to go and just focus on what God is saying to me. It is a quiet place with just the waves crashing in and out and where I can just be alone. I love the escape and the silence and it has become a special place to me and my time with my Heavenly Father. Whether it is a beach, a nature trail, or the community library -- find a place where you feel at peace and devote some weekly time to be with God there.
3. Spend Time with Spiritual Leaders
Rather than finding someone who is cool, hip, or just fun to be around, look first for someone who will keep you honest, and always provide the truth when necessary. I’ve noticed I have simply needed someone who can read my soul and give me guidance in my spiritual walk as I follow Jesus. I am so thankful for the spiritual leaders and close friends that have taken the time to invest in my life. Also, don’t forget that as leaders, we need to be pouring our lives in those that God has placed around us.
4. Go on a Retreat
No, not necessarily a retreat where you have to sign up and pay money (although those are good for the soul as well), but retreat in the most basic form of the word. Get away from the noise and expectations of your daily life. I was able to take a retreat recently by just getting in the car and driving 60 minutes to be in the mountains. I love to get away to remote places and just enjoy the view and listen to God.
You can go on a hike, a drive, or even take a walk. Whatever you do, take time to retreat. It will do so much good for your soul!
Mother Teresa once said,
You have to be holy in your position as you are, and I have to be holy in the position that God has put me. So it is nothing extraordinary to be holy. Holiness is not the luxury of the few. Holiness is a simple duty for you and for me. We have been created for that.
Remember, Holy not perfect…spiritual not religious! As we walk into the new year, the key to success is to make time for God. Be intentional in spending time alone with Him and see what all He has planned for you in 2023! Hopefully, this is your best year yet and it will be a time you will see God show up in big and small ways in your life and ministry. Cheering you on in 2023!
What are some ways that you’ve used to reconnect with God this past year?