8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. NKJV
It was years before I learned to have a time alone with the Lord each morning and evening. As a child of God, our goal and purpose is to be like our Father in heaven. To accomplish that goal, we need to spend time alone with Him. The more we “see Him as He is” the more we will be like Him.
I put this together to teach and train you so that you won’t take years to learn these simple lessons that produce such profound results.
1. The Lord MUST come first. (about 15 minutes)
When packing, I learned that I had to put the big things in first. I could always fit the smaller things in afterwards in nooks and crevices if necessary but if I didn’t put the big, important things in first, they would never fit later.
With time management it works the same way. The things that will take the most time must be put on your schedule first. Then the calls, tasks and busyness of the day will fill in the rest. You will spend your time doing something. It is up to you to make sure you do the right things and make them a priority.
For me, I discovered the secret to the self-discipline of reading my Bible everyday began when I found a passage in the Book of Job:
12 I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food. NKJV
When I read this, I asked myself “How can I treasure the words of His mouth more than my necessary food?” And the answer that came to me was, “Don’t eat until you have eaten the bread of heaven. Always read your Bible before you eat your first meal of the day.”
It took me a while to figure out how to do that. I experimented with various things to help me remember. The most successful thing for me was an alarm on my phone set for 11:30 AM (I rarely eat breakfast). The name on the alarm is “Time with Him”.
These days it is rare for the alarm to go off that I haven’t had my Time with Him hours before but in the early days I had to remind myself “I treasure His Word more than my necessary food; I would rather go hungry than not read my Bible.” I like to eat so I would make a point to immediately read my Bible so I could eat lunch.
Making Jesus your Lord means putting Him before yourself; your Lord must come first.
The average read your Bible through in a year program makes a daily reading that takes about 15 minutes. I usually follow this kind of plan but it is not necessary to read this much. What is necessary is to be taught by the Lord and to “meditate” in the Word.
2. Breathe in before you breathe out. (15- 30 minutes)
I’ve learned to breathe in His Word before I breathe out my prayers. So I always begin my time with the Lord by reading my Bible. As I read, often a single verse or a small passage will leap out at me. Just as with Job 23:12, the Holy Spirit will prompt and teach me.
Often, I will use a simple method to understand what the Lord is teaching me. It is called the SOAP method and it is super simple: Scripture, Observation, Application, and then Prayer.
- Scripture–I will write the scripture down that seems to be speaking to me.
- Observation–I will look at the scripture and write down what I see it is saying to me. What struck me about the scripture?
- Application–I will try to figure out how I DO what I am seeing. How do I apply this truth or idea to my life today?
- Prayer–I will then write out a prayer to the Lord based upon what I just learned and ask for His help in applying this scripture to my life.
This article began with Joshua 1:8; the SOAP study is a simple method to “meditate, observe and to do the Word of God.”
As a pastor, I could easily fall into the trap of only reading my Bible to prepare a sermon, but that is not spending time with Him and I cannot be like someone I never spend any time with.
When I spend time with Him, I am fed. There are times when a SOAP Study has become a sermon but all of my SOAP Studies can’t become sermons. I don’t preach twice a day. Instead, I am made rich on the inside by the Word and when I speak, minister or counsel, the Word in my heart becomes the Word of the Lord to my hearers.
You can never give what you do not have yourself.
I am also a writer. I’ve learned that I have to breathe in before I can breathe out. I need to read before I can write. I need to research and study before I can explain something. Writing must come out of the overflow.
So, each day I breathe in the Spirit of God so that what I breathe out will also be the Spirit of God.
Writing a SOAP Study out can take 30 minutes or more. When pressed for time, you can abbreviate this part by writing the verse on a 3×5 card and adding a question “How do I observe to do this?” Review the card several times throughout your day. In this way, you can grow to be more like Him.
3. Informal Prayer
As I read my Bible, I may feel convicted of sin. I may see some area in my life that I am being called to change. I find reading and meditating in the Word to be a great starting place for an active prayer life.
Prayer is just talking to God. If you have a hard time with this, try to imagine Jesus sitting in a chair across from you. Speak to Him as if He were there with you.
The first thing you will realize is that there is no point in being untruthful. He knows the truth anyway. When I first came to the Lord, I would speak to Him as I would my friends. Soon, I was convicted of my cursing and coarse jokes (because if I shared them with my friends I wasn’t going to hold them back from my Lord.) I started saying “sweet petunias” whenever I wanted to cuss. That didn’t last long because it was embarrassing so I learned to hold my tongue and say nothing at all.
I soon came to realize that no matter the things I said, no matter the things I admitted, no matter the feelings I expressed, God did not reject me. God loves unconditionally. He knows the mess, the wrong attitudes, and the sinful and abusive things we do and loves us anyway.
Speak to the Lord as though He were your closest friend. He is. He knows you and loves you anyway and He always has your best interests in mind. Trust Him with your secrets.
This kind of prayer can last all day. I will hike the woods with my dogs and pray like this. I will pray like this while driving down the road. There is no need to close your eyes. You are talking privately to a friend.
4. Formal Prayer (about 30 minutes)
There are different kinds of prayer. Formal prayer as part of your time with Him begins with the attitude of trust described above. But formal prayer is petitioning the court of heaven for the things you need, want or desire.
Because it is a formal petition (that can be challenged by your enemy), it needs to follow a format that Jesus laid out in what we call the Lord’s Prayer.
I use 3×5 cards and it helps me stay on track and focus. I don’t forget important things and I can write notes on the cards if I get something in prayer.
a. Address Your Father
Jesus taught us to address our petitions to Our Father in Heaven. Keep in mind that He is your Father and He is in charge.
b. Begin with Thanksgiving and Praise
Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what God has already done for you. I like to keep a list of the things I am most grateful for. Being thankful first is helpful to maintain the right attitude with God and is a great reminder of all He has done for us. I do not list everything that I am thankful for as that would take up my entire day. The cards change over time.
Praise is less about what God has done for you and more about who God is. My most recent praise is focused on God’s faithfulness for fulfilling a promise He made to me over 25 years ago.
Focusing on the character of God (in the Lord’s Prayer it is His holiness) is different than focusing on what He does. We love God because of who He is and not just for what He does for us. He is good, holy, righteous, loving, just, faithful and true.
c. Pray for His Will to be Done
Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What does heaven look like? That is the will of God for you.
I use 3×5 index cards. You can use what works for you; I like to include the following things:
- Prayer Subject
- Scripture Promise
- The Date I begin praying
- What will make the prayer answered
I like to write out my request on a card and include a scripture that promises what I am seeking. I add the date I begin praying. I make my prayers specific enough that they are answerable. If I am praying for someone to be blessed, what does “blessing” look like? I want to grow in faith. If I pray prayers that can’t be answered then I can never thank God for answering it.
I add notes. Often the Lord will help me make the prayer more specific or speak to me.
I put His kingdom– pastor, church, and others–first. Then I pray for the things I need for myself.
d. Seek forgiveness
Seek mercy and forgiveness for others and for yourself. We all fall short in many ways. Forgiving someone else is key to our own freedom and forgiveness.
e. Seek guidance
Like a Shepherd, the Lord will lead and guide you, if you belong to Him. I seek His leading for my day–that I may be delivered out of every trap and snare and guided to a place of provision.
f. Close with Praise and Worship
This can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make it. It can be as simple as “You are so awesome Lord! I love You. I will go where You lead me. I will do what You tell me to do.”
Worship is love and commitment. It is not complicated. It is the place where I give myself to God and keep my covenant with Him. He gave His life for me. I give my life to Him.
g. End with Jesus
I close every prayer with “In Jesus’ Name I Pray, Amen.” Jesus said we could ask anything in His Name and we would be given it.
You can do these things in about an hour each morning. If you apply the full SOAP method, it will take about 90 minutes. Even if all you do is read your Bible for just 15 minutes, it will create major improvements in your walk with God. Begin with mornings. When you add evenings, don’t worry if you fall asleep reading your Bible. There isn’t a better way to end your day.
About the Author
Ken Van Horn has been a pastor for over 25 years–only two years of which was full-time ministry. He has worked as an electrical contractor, editor, probate judge, web developer, consultant and recently completed “A Greater Reward” based upon what the Holy Spirit revealed to him while serving as a judge concerning the work of justice and the imminent Judgment Seat of Christ.
He is currently developing a start up church in Cusseta, Georgia and does itinerant ministry when available.
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