My favorite time of the day is first thing in the morning. Ok, maybe its about 15 minutes later once I get some coffee. There was a time when I had to make myself, or try to make myself spend time in Bible reading and prayer. It is God's mercy to me that this is rarely a struggle any more (I have plenty of other struggles). In my late 20’s, I learned an approach to prayer and Bible reading that transformed my life. I wrote about that here. As the years went on and computers became faster and portable and Bible study software proliferated, I graduated to praying using a computer to aid this time alone with God. It took me a long time, many, many years to recognize that much of the time that is a bad idea for me. There was a sense in which using my computer to help me spend time with God felt more efficient, but I see now that efficiency and relationship are not words that fit together well.
I’ve been going old school now for several weeks. It started when I read one of those articles about how taking notes by hand is a more effective way of learning when listening in class. When a person who types well uses a computer to take notes, it tempts him or her to write what they hear word for word. But when he or she writes by hand, it forces them to synthesize on the spot because it is impossible to write down everything. That distinction in processing increases learning. Somehow reading that article provoked me to ditch my computer for morning prayer.
So now for a few months, I get up and I read a little from a book; right now Tim Keller’s book Prayer. Then I do my McChayne Bible reading plan from my ESV Reader’s Bible, often out loud and slow. I also have a pen and a notebook close by. From this slow marinating of my heart and mind in the word of God, I am provoked to pray and speak back to the God who has just been speaking to me through his word.
I want to say over the top words here along the lines of what you would read in Psalm 119, that this time alone with God is often a rich feast. That is true. But I must also tell you that sometimes my heart is cold and my mind is distracted. But by God’s grace I stay at it. Such times have little to do with being quiet, unless quiet means the sense in my heart that comes from not having my digital devices creating an undertow of stress I didn’t detect until it wasn’t there. The devices are still close by, but their bells and whistles are turned off and they don’t interrupt me.
(Here’s an article about the dangers relative to having a smart phone close by in the mornings. Ironically, I read this while still in bed. But then I got up.)