Clearing the Clutter to Spend Time with God
Reading the Bible and spending time in prayer probably seems like a luxury you as a college student can’t afford. It’s hard enough to find space that’s quiet and at least semi-private, and maybe even harder to find the time to do it. So how can you think creatively about spending time with God when your schedule and mind feel cluttered?
1. Remember it’s a relationship you’re cultivating.
This isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s one that we often need to be reminded of. The Holy Spirit in us craves that communion with the Living Word. He craves the Bread of Life coupled with the power of God to apply it and use it to satisfy our hearts and minds like nothing else can. When you think of it in these terms, the relational aspect makes more sense and compels us to accept the gracious invitation to join into this blessed Triune conversation. What a privilege!
2. Remember you are a whole person.
You can’t be your truest self, the one God created you to be, if your spirit is shriveling. You are more than a brain, more than a body, more than your emotions. If one of these aspects is focused on the neglect of the others, it impairs you as a person. For example, as good as “leg day” is, it would be harmful to you if all you ever did was “leg day”. Your lower body would become incongruent with the rest of you, making it difficult for you to function effectively. Your inner spiritual life with God should be the fuel for your growth in knowledge, affection, and self-care, producing maturity in your whole person.
3. Remember there isn’t a prescribed “best” way to talk to God.
While there may be some ways that are better than others, the best way is the way that works for you! What God really wants is for you to draw near to him. That can be done walking to class, sitting in a coffee shop, or washing your laundry. I think God would prefer a few minutes of honest, humble, open communication with him, more than an hour-long, distant, pretentious conversation. I have found that thinking of prayer as an ongoing conversation with God throughout my day is my “best” way. I pray in other ways and at other times as well, but I love talking to God as I walk through life since he is my best friend who never leaves my side.
4. Remember meditation/reflection is one of the main goals in reading the Bible.
Reading and studying the Word should result in pondering it. This pondering can happen while you’re in the shower, before you fall asleep at night, and while you’re waiting in line at the dining hall. Meditating involves turning a passage over and over in your mind, thinking about the words and what they mean, the immediate and larger contexts of the passage, and how it all applies to your heart and life. You don’t need to be intaking huge portions of Scripture to do this. Just a few verses at a time will work. Maybe you only are able to get through ten verses in a whole semester. That’s great! That’s ten whole verses that are rooted more deeply in your heart than if you skimmed several chapters while you were half asleep!
Here are some resources that might be helpful to assist you in applying the reminders above.
- Listen to a Bible reading podcast. You can find any number of podcasts using various reading plans. Here are a few short ones that focus on smaller portions of Scripture.
- 30 Days in the Psalms with Kristyn Getty (Time: most are around 2-3 minutes long) – Reading through 30 of the most beloved Psalms in the Bible
- Daily Lectio Divina (Time: 15 minutes or less) – Daily podcast of reflective, prayerful Scripture reading
- A Chapter a Day Bible Reading (Time: most are around 7 minutes long) – Reading through a chapter a day with some very short context provided and closing prayer
- If you need something to block the outside noise while you read and pray, pop in your air pods and pick one of the many prayer/Bible reading playlists on your favorite music app.
- “Take Words With You” is a helpful Bible-verse-focused prayer guide. Specific verses are provided to pray for people on your heart or prayer list. If the verses are more praise oriented, you can spend time praising God for who he has revealed himself to be in those particular verses. The guide is out of print, but this online version is free to use and download.
- Meditate on the passage of Scripture your pastor is preaching through currently. Keep things simple and pray through and rehearse to yourself what you learned from the sermon and how you can apply it to your life.
Last, once you have the reminders and resources you need, here are a few roadblocks to avoid.
- You can have everything you need to spend time with God and still not prioritize it. Ask God to give you ears to hear his voice as the loudest and most important voice around you. Ask him to give you a desire to spend time with him since he is more important than anyone else. Then do it even when you don’t feel like it and keep asking him to help you feel like it. It’s amazing to see him answer that prayer!
- Eliminate distractions. Some of the recommendations above involve a device. If using your phone is too distracting, put it in another room, and grab your Bible and read a few verses, and then sit in your closet with the door closed, talking to him about what you’ve read and what’s on your heart. Some of my most precious times with God when I was in college were spent in the cleaning supply closet in the stairwell of my dorm.
- There may be immediate changes you notice in you and around you, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t. God promises to finish the good work he began in you (Philippians 1:6) and the primary way he does it is through his Word. Time with him is an investment, and as we know, investments frequently take time to produce measurable gains. Keep going, though, because God promises change and growth is happening (even if you can’t quantify it right away) and definitely will happen! He is always faithful to keep his promises!
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