I recently made a few changes in my life. Lot's of things motivated these changes: disgust with my current situation, desire to do something more, the inspirational achievements of my wife... lots of things.
Among these changes is a 90 day commitment to better, healthier living. I've changed the way I eat - no more Little Debbies! :( I even spent some money on a 90 day workout program along with the equipment I'd need to pull it off. This is a pretty tough workout. We're talking about a 60-90 minute workout every day, six days a week.
I had already planned to change my schedule by going to bed by 11 so I could get up at 6 and still get the recommended 7 hours of sleep. However, the day before I started the program I could almost hear God. He said, "You'll go to bed earlier and get up earlier to spend 60-90 minutes working on your body but I still get the ol' hit and miss 15-20 minutes? Really? That's where I rate on the priority list?"
I didn't like how convicting that conversation was but He was right, as always, my priorities were askew. So, I modified my initial plans to include spending my first 60 minutes with God before even putting in the DVD. That means I'm in bed at 10 and up at 5.
I was a little worried about the 60 minutes part though. I have never been that good at prayer, especially not long stints of it. I always found my mind would wander. So, I figured I'd have to put into practice what I had preached to the youth about How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life by making sure my prayer life was balanced with each of the 5 prayer categories: meditation, confession, praise and thanksgiving, intercession and petition. I also figured why not make it a progression just like my physical workouts - 10 minutes for scripture reading and then 10 minutes for each category.
As I expected, the first couple days were really rough. Have you ever been on a trip with a coworker that you only have a superficial relationship with? Been stuck in a car or on a plane for a long period of time with just this one person? This guy may have been your "hey man" for years but you never really got beyond the superficial conversations? That's what the first two days were like. I'd cover all my regular stuff in the first few minutes of each category, you know, all the stuff I normally did in my 15-20 minute conversations with God. Then I'd sit there for the remaining time in some kind of weird, awkward silence that I didn't quite know what to do with.
It wasn't until day three that the thought occurred to me... you're gonna have to go deeper man. The intercession and petition parts were easiest, I mean c'mon, I can always find more hurting people and things I want for myself to pray for. Even the meditation part came pretty easy, I am a pastor after all so I'm used to digging for the deeper meaning in scripture. It was the praise and confession parts that were giving me fits.
Confession for 10 minutes every morning? I mean, I wasn't that bad of a person was I? Finally, in order to break the awkward silence, I began to dive deeper and deeper into the most private areas of my mind, the parts no one ever sees, not even those closest to me... the parts I had convinced myself even God didn't know about. It wasn't until day 3 that my true confession began.
And what about praise and thanksgiving? What was I really thankful for? What new did I have in the last 24 hours to praise God for? In my struggle to find more than a few things I realized a horrible truth. I had very little to praise God for. Not because God isn't awesome and worthy of praise, but because there were so few areas in my life where I had given God control. He wasn't doing things in my life because I had not allowed Him... That realization terrified me. I was struggling to praise God because I had given Him so little responsibility in my life. Day 3 is a day I will always remember. I imagine it will turn into a milestone in my life that I can look back to and say, "Right there, that's when it all began. That's when I truly began to find new life in Christ."
I decided to write this out for one simple reason - to apologize to every person I have ever misled about a daily time spent with God. You see, for years I have been telling people that it's not about quantity, but quality - that you can somehow cultivate a deep, growing relationship with God by simply spending 15-20 minutes a day in bible study and prayer. This experience has taught me the truth.
The truth is, only through significant quantity can you reach life changing quality. Don't short-change your time with God. Go to bed earlier. Get up earlier. Give God your first, your best, your most valuable time.