“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV)
As Christians, we are urged to have a daily devotional time with God. I asked myself if this was a biblical command or a tradition passed down through the ages; are bible study and devotional time interchangeable; and what is a good model for a time of devotions?
While I do more study on the biblical command and traditions associated with our devotion to God, I’d like to spend a few days looking at a model for our time spent with God. And at another time, we’ll look at the differences between devotions and bible study. For now, I’d like to share my thoughts regarding a good model for a time of devotions, whether it be daily, weekly, or at a time interval you and God set, a devotional time is instrumental in your worship to our Lord.
We’ll start with an example set by Jesus. In Mark 1:35, John Mark, who accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey, tells us: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (NIV)
I think this verse shows us two key elements to incorporate into our moments of consecration to God. We can find examples of when and where. And of course, as you look at the verse, it’s easy to see when and where Christ had a moment alone with the Father. But we must also look at why He chose his “when” and “where.”
Christ found a few moments to be alone with God early in the morning. Does this mean our devotional time needs to always be in the morning? I don’t think so. I don’t think the time of day is as important as the reason behind the time we choose. Jesus chose this time because He knew that His days were hectic and busy. He might not have another chance to get away with His Father. Surrounding verses show us that people were coming to Him all through the day and into the evenings, but we’ll talk more about that later this week. For now, it’s important to note, however, that Jesus chose a time when the demands of His ministry were not at their peak.
When we choose our alone time with God, it is important to follow this example. Maybe you are not what is considered “a morning person.” I’ve always been a combination of a morning and night person. I’m a rare person that needs very little sleep and finds it difficult to sleep more than a few hours. I’m sure I was a hindrance to my own parent’s devotional time. Not only was I up late at night, but by the time their feet hit the floor in the morning, I was standing next to their bed ready to greet them into the day. And if I wasn’t there, probably one of my sisters or my brother took my place.
If your day is crowded and busy, it’s possible you may have to do as Jesus did. You may have to get up “very early” in the morning. It may be that evenings are a quieter time with fewer demands on you. If so, that may be a better time of choosing for a devotional time. What if you have a “little Judy,” that is up before you and awake long after you retire for the night? I’m sure that over the years, there were plenty of times my parents had to find a distraction for me, so that I did not continue to become a distraction to them. And that is the key. Find a time that is as free of distractions as possible. As we study this verse this week, you’ll see that even this time for Jesus was not distraction free. But, Christ took the moments offered Him within His busy schedule. He found the time. We can do the same.
The second thing Jesus teaches us with this example is where He had His time to commune with God. He left the house. Okay, if as my parents did, you have four small, active, and curious children, physically leaving the house may not be an option. Especially if you are thinking of going very far. (And if you have four small children, you may be thinking that very thing.)
The verse also tells us that Jesus went off to a solitary place. I don’t know that leaving the house was as important as this part of the example. They key idea is that He withdrew from others. He removed Himself from obvious distractions.
So, if we look at a few practical ideas of how to follow the example of Christ, what is a busy person living in the 21st century to do? Maybe you can’t go far from the house, but can you go to a front or back porch? Do you have a tree that offers quiet shelter? If you look hard enough, you’ll find something.
I remember one year when my siblings, our spouses, and all our children converged on my parent’s home for Christmas. During the night we had bodies strewn everywhere. During the day, we ran into each other constantly. One morning, Mother stood in the kitchen and made pancakes. As each plateful was done, she’d call someone’s name and hand out a plate. She called my name, I grabbed my plate, and tried to find an empty spot at the now crowded dining table.
As each person came in, the chatter around the table increased. At last, Mother came into the dining room to be sure everyone had a plate of pancakes. She counted heads. “Where’s your daddy?” she asked. Everyone looked at each other. No one knew. Soon a search party, headed up by grandchildren thinking this was a game of hide-and-seek, began to look for Dad. It took us a while, but we eventually found him. My brother called us to the back porch and pointed to Dad’s old pick-up truck parked behind the house. There sat Dad, in his truck, the windows rolled up, and the doors locked, eating his plate of pancakes in peace and quiet. I think all the chattering, running into one another, and business had become more than he expected when they invited us for Christmas. The point is, however, that when Dad wanted to find a quiet spot, he was inventive. If necessary, go lock yourself in your vehicle to have some quiet moments alone with God.
Of course, your quiet spot doesn’t have to truly be outside the house. Don’t lose sight of the importance here. The key element is that Christ withdrew to a place of least distractions. We’ve all heard of moms who have locked themselves in their bathrooms just to have a quiet moment. If that’s where you must have your devotions, do that. Or maybe it will be a quiet spot in your bedroom. Maybe you’ll have to literally make yourself a prayer closet. But I urge each of you to find a spot where the distractions are at a minimum, spend some time with God, and talk to Him.
One thing I want to caution as you choose your time and place for your devotions. Just as talking on a cell phone, eating, and putting on makeup while you are driving can be a hazardous distraction, if you try to have your devotions while commuting to and from work, the driving will become a distraction to the devotion. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be talking and listening to the Lord during this time. It’s just that I, personally, do not count this as my time “alone” with the Lord. For years, I commuted to downtown Houston for employment. I tried calling my drive time by another name—devotional time. I can tell you from personal experience it was always good to know that God rode with me, but that time did not adequately fulfill what a solitary place can do for my time with the Lord.
For the next few mornings, I will dedicate my blog to this verse above and a few things we, together, might learn from it. Please feel free to leave comments about your own struggles and personal answers to a time and place for a quiet time with the Lord. Your comments may help or inspire someone else. If you are struggling, another reader may have faced the same problems and be able to offer a suggestion.
Tomorrow, we are going to look at one of the most common excuses to having a daily devotion. And later, we’ll look at what having a devotional time really means. See you in the morning,
©copyright 2009 Judy Vandiver
Personal Bible Study:
1. Where would my ideal spot be to have daily devotions? If I can’t arrange that at this time, what might be a good substitute?
2. Am I a morning person or night person? What is the best time of day for me to plan to get alone with God?
3. What is a major distraction to having a daily, or even weekly, devotional time with the Lord?
4. What ideas can I think of to remove that distraction?
5. Memorize Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”