“AS THE DEER PANTS FOR THE WATER BROOKS, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2 NASB). “I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee” (Psalm 63:1 NASB). Thirst for God and yearning for His fellowship was the stirring cry of the Psalmist in his devotion to the Holy One. What greater communion could there be than with the Lord of life and glory? What higher privilege could we have than a divine encounter—time with God? It has been well said that if you love someone, you will spend time with him. We who profess to love the Lord can hardly dispense with spending time alone with Him. The rush of daily living relentlessly squeezes our lives in a vise of clamoring demands. We are consumed by “busy-ness” and thus fail to lay hold of our riches in Christ. Our daily walk requires an appointment with God, set aside as a sacred trust and not to be lightly broken. If we have made it, He will be waiting.
Time And Place
1. When Should We Commune With Him? In every time of trouble He is near (Psalm 20:1; 46:1). There is no time when we cannot call upon our Father. Yet stated times have long been the practice of the godly. These may be as frequent as morning, noon and evening (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10). They may even occur at midnight (Psalm 119:62). However, we tend to grow busy during the day, and weariness drains our strength at night. The best preparation for a day is to ensure that we have seen the face of God before we see the face of man. God’s men often sought Him early. “In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch” (Psalm 5:3 NASB). “He awakens Me morning by morning. He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple” (Isaiah 50:4b NASB). “I rise before dawn” (Psalm 119:147 NASB). It was in the morning that the children of Israel were summoned by the Lord to gather the manna, the heavenly bread which was to sustain them throughout the day (Exodus 16:21). The best of all beginnings is the one which is with God.
2. Where Should We Meet With Him? God is available everywhere. Our task is to find a place to meet with Him without interruption or distraction. In His earthly life, our Lord sought such a place. “In the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there” (Mark 1:35 NASB). He often prayed alone in the hills (Matthew 14:23). On our part, a room or kitchen corner may do as well as a mountain top. The need is to be alone with Him for personal attention.
Purpose Of Meeting
What are we to seek? Supremely, we want to seek Him. Communion with God is primarily for the purpose of deepening our roots in Him, rather than completing study projects. Ideally it should be a time of appreciation, fellowship and a warming of our hearts, as well as instruction. It can strengthen us by giving us great thoughts about God. It can provide guidance concerning His will for our lives. It is good tolinger before Him and to refuse to leave until we have truly met Him and had His blessing (Genesis 32:26). Nothing we can do for God or do for others will take the place of this blessing. Therefore, we should not rush into and rush out of His presence. The Enemy of our souls will violently oppose and hinder our efforts to maintain a disciplined devotional life. He knows it is a benefit in the lives of the devout and its absence is a detriment in the lives of spiritual drifters.
Fellowship with God is a two-way street. When we meditate upon the Word of God, He speaks to us. When we lift our hands in prayer, we speak to Him. Both are a part of time with God. Even silent waiting upon Him can be helpful in hearing His voice.
1. Listen To God. The Lord Jesus said that man must live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). If this be true, then God must be given the opportunity to speak to our souls, to grip our very being with Himself, with His will, with His ways. To avoid
undisciplined, irregular skipping from place to place in the Bible, we need to read chapters and books of Scripture consecutively. We need to read slowly, thoughtfully and with careful consideration of the parts as well as the whole. It is particularly helpful if we take time to meditate
on some thought or verse in which God is speaking to us (Psalm 119:15,23, 48, 78, 97). Reading through a section at a leisurely pace, even twice over, will help to settle it in our minds. This will prepare us to ask various questions about the passage: What does the passage say? (Ob
servation) What does the passage mean? (Interpretation) Check the meaning of difficult words you do not understand. How does this passage apply to my life? (Application) Always remember that conformity to the character of Christ is God’s objective in our lives (Romans 8:29).
Stephen Olford notes four significant purposes of the daily devotional time.1 These are spiritual health (1 Peter 2:2), spiritual cleansing in a world of defilement (Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; 17:17), spiritual counsel (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 73:24) and spiritual conflict (Ephesians 6:17). The effective intake of the Word and its personal application are aided by a devotional notebook in which we note the date, text and key verse in which God spoke to us and then the application or spiritual insight. An application is most helpful when it is specific rather than general. God opens the eyes of those who are ready to obey whatever He would show them (Psalm 119:18).
2. TALK TO GOD. Prayer is drawing near by faith to speak to God in honesty and simplicity. It should not be formal or a mere repetition of certain forms (Matthew 6:7). Keeping our words fresh and conversational maintains reality and honesty before God. An excellent beginning is to speak in praise and adoration of God’s personal excellencies(worship). This should remind us of the need to learn more of His attributes. We can express our gratitude for His many blessings, both spiritual and material (thanksgiving). We are invited to bring the needs of others before Him (intercession). Here it is helpful to have a prayer reminder list which is kept updated. This can be divided so as not to attempt covering every request every day. One system (from Olford)
uses the first letter of the days of week as a key. Monday for missionaries, Tuesday for thanksgiving for blessings and answers to prayer, Wednesday for workers in the local or national scene, Thursday for tasks in the ministry or on the job, Friday for family, Saturday for saints (believers) in their special needs and Sunday for sinners or those needing to be saved. Some believers keep a place for answers to their prayers. There is often need of confession. Finally, remember to petition for personal needs regardless of how small or large they seem (Philippians 4:6-7).
Pointers To Remember
1. Have a regular time and quiet place. Schedule the time and stick to it. Be able to pray aloud without disturbing others. Start with a small amount of time (20 minutes) and gradually increase it.
2. Have all the needed materials (Bible, notebook, pen) ready before retiring. Devotional books are stimulating, but are not to be used as a substitute for independent, consecutive study of Scripture. Have a plan for going through the Bible. Do not attempt to read more Scripture than can be spiritually digested. A dozen verses or a chapter is usually sufficient.
3. Go to bed early. Late hours rob us of freshness when rising. Get up promptly. Do not roll over for a few more minutes of sleep. Get up, wash and be alert.
4. Ask God to speak to you and to manifest His presence.
5. Be expectant, believing and listening for God. Shut off mind-wandering by a deliberate act of the will. Think of the Lord, rather than being preoccupied with self.
6. Do not hurry God. Meditate on what you are reading. Pause in your prayers and listen for God.
7. Jot down thoughts in your devotional notebook. Make notes for further study or for a prayer list. Plan to share your thoughts with a friend or prayer partner.
Olford says that devotional time with God “is absolutely vital to a life of sustained spirituality, effectiveness and love. It is the barometer of he Christian life.”2 May we ask: Have you made an appointment to meet with God each day? Do you keep it faithfully? Can you be victorious in your spiritual life without time with God?
1 “Manna in the Morning,” by Stephen Olford. Moody Press, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Used by permission.
2 “Manna in the Morning.” Used by permission.
Appointment With God
1. What priority of the Christian life is indicated in Psalm 42:1-2? Why is this necessary for a growing relationship with the Lord?
2. Why do we need regular time with God?
John 15:3 1 Samuel 1:19a
1 Peter 2:2 Psalm 143:8
3. Describe the activity of Mary in Luke 10:38-42. What was Jesus’ evaluation of her actions?
Describe the attitude and actions of Martha as she hosts Jesus in her home.
How did Martha’s spiritual insensitivity limit the value of her service? What must come before service (Luke 5:15-16)?
4. What are some ways in which we indicate that we often value service/activities above our fellowship with the Lord? What should you do when you sense this is happening in your life?
5. What are some good times to regularly “sit at Jesus’ feet” (Daniel 6:10; Psalm 119:147-148)? What are the distinct advantages of the different times of the day (compare Psalm 1:2)?
6. When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God provided manna, “the bread from heaven,” for their food. How frequently were they to gather the manna? What happened if they waited until later in the day (Exodus 16:21)? What applications can you make from this passage regarding spending regular time with God?
Where did Jesus go to spend time with the Father (Mark 1:33-35)? Why do you think He chose the early morning for this time alone with the Father?
7. What are some things we can do in our time alone with God?
Psalm 5:3 Isaiah 50:4b
8. What are some hindrances to an effective time alone with God?
Proverbs 6:9 Psalm 66:18
How would you deal with these in your life?
9. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Psalm 63:1. How does this express your own desire to know Him?
10. Do you have a regular time for daily fellowship alone with God?
How much time would you estimate that you spend alone with God in a devotional way each day? each week?
What is the best time(s) of the day for you to meet with God?
“With God’s help, I desire to spend at least_____minutes a day alone with God, from
_____ to____ (state time of day).” SIGNED_______________________________