Written by Sarah Graefe
A few weeks ago I participated with our crazy-amazing youth retreat called WKND and got to spend time in a small group with 21 pretty incredible 8th grade girls. During our discussion about how to write – and live – a better bucket list, questions started coming up about personal time with God.
One girl was brave enough to ask something that many of the others were thinking but were too shy to ask: “When we talk about spending time with God, what exactly does that look like? What do we do?”
As we started diving into this, pens started moving and the group was silent as I and other girls shared. It was simple and eye-opening for me – the reality that so often we really don’t know what to do to “spend time with God.”
Just like these middle school girls hungry and ready to hear from God, I can forget how simple and important this is. I can quickly fill my Jesus-time with a couple of good Bible-app devotionals, a mile-long list of prayer requests or a think-tank pre-work worry session that can quickly squeeze Jesus out of my morning altogether.
Let me add that there is nothing wrong with Bible-app devotionals or prayer lists! These are great tools to help us get closer to Jesus. But sometimes even good things can be distractions that keep us from truly listening during our time with Him. I too can forget how simple and personal God is and that at His perfect core, He wants to just be with me. Knowing this deep in my soul can preface a much better morning with Jesus. But I have to remind myself of this for when I get distracted and off track.
My favorite time to spend with Jesus is in the morning before work. I love to make a cup of coffee, grab my Bible and journal and hang out. But I have to guard my heart from distractions in this precious time each day. Here are a couple of things that help me get my heart back on track when I’m distracted.
A Grateful Tongue (Praise)
Sometimes I sit down with Jesus in the morning and I realize my heart is chock-full of complaints and irritations. Things that went wrong, people who are frustrating me, problems in my world that I just can’t fix. When I start my day with those things, my attitude soon follows (and it isn’t pretty!).
I am learning that praise is a choice and a discipline because sometimes it’s the last thing I want to do. But when I intentionally pause to tell God the things I’m thankful for, my heart begins to shift toward peace and joy.
When I tell God how good He is, or reflect on the things I’m thankful for, I can almost feel my heart opening up. This is how we position ourselves to hear from the Holy Spirit! It sounds almost cheesy, I know, but I dare you to try it the next time you’re feeling cranky ☺.
A Quiet Heart (Listen)
When our hearts are overwhelmed and our minds are busy, we can’t hear clearly. Just like we make a willful decision to praise, so we also need to be intentional about listening.
I love what Solomon writes in the book of Proverbs about this:
“Become intimate with Him in whatever you do; and He will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all, for wisdom comes when you adore Him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.” – Proverbs 3:6-7, (TPT).
To get to the point of being “undivided,” I have to deliberately eliminate all the distractions. For me that can mean putting my phone on silent and leaving it in another room, or taking a moment to jot down to-do list thoughts before I sit with Jesus to come back to later, or simply asking God to speak and daring to sit in silence, listening. When I set aside the distractions and train my heart on Jesus, the better I can hear.
God wants to speak to us. He often won’t speak to our physical ears. But He will speak to our spirits – a still small “voice “on the inside that whispers encouragement and correction in love. A picture or song or Bible verse that “suddenly” comes to mind or an overwhelming sensation of peace or joy – friends, these are not accidents, they are His Spirit speaking to yours!
A Willing Spirit (Obey)
James reminds us that unless we put into action what God tells us to do, we have basically forgotten who we are as followers of Jesus. The Passion translation beautifully reminds us:
“Don’t just listen to the Word of Truth and not respond to it, for that is the essence of self-deception. So always let His Word become like poetry written and fulfilled by your life!” – James 2:22
“Those who set their gaze deeply into the perfecting law of liberty are fascinated by and respond to the truth they hear and are strengthened by it – they experience God’s blessing in all that they do!” – James 2:25
God gives us wisdom through His Word and His Spirit. But if we only listen and never obey, we are missing the most critical part of our adventure relationship with Jesus! And you never know what amazing thing He is writing for you if you don’t dare to act on what He tells you.
Allow me to share a simple and powerful example. At WKND, one high school girl was worshiping Jesus during one of the evening services. She was suddenly reminded of a friend of hers who struggled with a bad case of acid reflux and was often very sick. She felt God prompt her to pray for her friend because He wanted to heal her.
Something simple. And something true. We believe God can heal. His Word says so. Yet this simple truth would take an action on the student’s part if she wanted to see God’s word come to life.
I’m so proud to say that this student, although nervous to do so, followed through a few days later. Since she prayed, her friend has not experienced any acid reflux since that moment! Come on, Jesus! This young lady realized something powerful: God can use her in a powerful way if she is willing to act on what He tells her!
I love this because it challenges me and reminds me that our Jesus-time is just a launching pad to the rest of our day. What He whispers to us is sometimes for our own healing and restoration (such as declaring the truth of His Word over our lives in prayer); and sometimes it is for someone else (such as sharing Jesus with a friend or connecting with someone He prompts us to call). As we obey, out of relationship with God, we experience His goodness in such a real way!
Pause for a moment and think about this. Can you feel the Holy Spirit’s joy and expectation over you? There is so much He wants to show you this week. I can’t wait to see what God will do in and through you!
Sarah Graefe has a blast serving on staff at Allison Park Church as the Assistant Children’s Director at the Hampton Campus. She is a graduate of Northeast Ministry School. She loves traveling for leisure and for missions and enjoys reading, eating and kayaking in her spare time.