Checking Boxes, or Time with the Lord?
How do we spend time with our Father?
What does your daily time with the Lord look like?
When I ask someone to tell me about their time with the Lord, in response I often hear about their Bible reading plan . . . where they are reading, and how well (or not-so-well) they’ve been keeping up with it.
It seems as though the current trend is often to think of “time with the Lord” simply as synonymous with “Bible reading plan.” Is this what immediately jumps to your mind when you think of what it means to spend time with the Lord each day?
Don’t get me wrong, Bible reading plans can certainly be helpful and useful. However, I feel as though there has been an increasingly prevalent assumption in the church today that time spent with the Lord may look like nothing more than spending 30 minutes reading, 30 seconds praying, and then checking off a daily reading box (whether on physical paper or in one’s conscience).
Then we can continue on with the rest of our busy day…or, if we missed our daily Bible reading, go on feeling guilty for leaving that box for today “empty.” It’s hard to imagine what my relationship with my wife would look like if I took the same approach to time spent with her.
Question: Is this a biblical understanding of time spent with the Lord, or have we slowly adopted a legalistic approach through the lens of Christian culture?
How did Christ spend time with his Father?
Jesus ought to be our ultimate example of how to spend time with our Father. Does our time spent with the Lord line up with the example Jesus gave?
Here are some helpful passages:
- “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
- “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Lk 5:16).
- “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Lk 6:12).
- “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Mt 14:23).
What can be observed from Christ’s example of “time spent with the Lord” is a discipline and drive to set aside time to pray with his Father for extended periods of time, alone—often early in the morning or in the watches of the night. Prayer seems to be the daily practice of Christ outlined in the gospels, rather than daily Scripture reading.
Make no mistake, Jesus had an extremely high view of Scripture, and so should we. He studied and read it thoroughly (Lk 2:40–52, Lk 4:16–21). He taught about its necessity, expected us to read and be very familiar with it, and quoted from it constantly (Mt 4:4, 12:3, 19:4–5; Mk 12:35–37; Jn 5:46–47, 8:31–32, 17:17; Lk 24:27).
However, the reality is that in the oral culture of his day, Jesus very likely would not have had a physical copy of Scripture with him daily or during these times spent with the Lord—Scripture makes no mention of it.
To be very clear and avoid confusion, this blog is NOT suggesting we spend less time in Scripture or take a lesser view of its importance. Yet, we must be reminded, through the example of Christ, of what the point or goal of Scripture is:
Scripture is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.
We have such a high view of Scripture, because its means (purpose) is to inform our worship, prayer, and relationship with God (the end goal). When we only focus on Scripture, and neglect to spend time in prayer, stillness, and fellowship with Him who Scripture tells us about, we miss the whole point!
Scripture is but a temporary means for us to know God now, as fallen beings who are temporarily separated from Him, with sin clouding our understanding. However, just as Adam did not need a Bible in the Garden, it is likely that we will not need Bibles in the millennium:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD” (Jer 31:33–34; cf. Heb 8:10–11).
And this lack of need for Scripture will come to even greater fruition in our eternal state after the millennium; where we will no longer be separated from God or have distorted minds due to sin, but will see his very face (Rev 22:4), and dwell with and know him intimately as his bride (Rev 21:2–3).
Indeed, the very purpose of our time spent in Scripture today is to inform our relationship with God. And so, if we spend a half hour reading the Word in the morning, simply to conclude with a 30 second prayer and get on with our day, we completely miss the point. We have focused on the means but neglected the end.
It would be like going to a skydiving facility, taking the pre-flight course, learning the proper “in air posture” while lying on your stomach on the floor . . . and then simply driving home afterward. While the course was certainly necessary, the whole point of the course was to inform one for the real purpose: to experience the joy of flying through the air.
In the same way, we rob ourselves of the point and purpose if we read Scripture for 30 minutes, pray for 30 seconds, and continue on with our day. Compare that approach with these Psalms that would have informed Christ’s time with his Father:
- “O God, you are my God; Early I will seek You: My soul thirsts for You” (Ps 63:1).
- “When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Ps 63:6).
- “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Ps 5:3).
- “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (Ps 119:147–148).
Is this what your time with the Lord looks like, or are there areas where you could follow Christ’s example more? Maybe what you need is to get up early, go find a mountain (or a closet; Mt 6:6), and pray! Let’s be more intentional about our time with the Lord—because that’s the example Christ gave.