Friday, March 22, 2013

My devotional life

This from Bill:

Recently, a friend asked about how much time I spend in prayer and how I do my daily devotions. Here's what I wrote:

The answer on how much time I spend praying is: Not enough! My daily devotional regimen is 1) listen to the Bible in Spanish while working out on the elliptical at 6:30 Am. Usually for 20-25 minutes. I usually listen to one or two chapters. 2) Listen to or read 1 chapter of the Bible in English with my kids at breakfast, while discussing it's historical or literary context, proper interpretation and how to apply it to our lives. That's about 15 minutes 5-6 days a week. We leave for school at 8:00 AM. 3) After I drop the kids off, I read the Bible in Spanish out loud (so as to practice my pronunciation while edifying my Spirit). I usually read 1-2 chapters. In English I read much more, but I can’t pull that off in Spanish, yet. I believe it is important to read whole books of the Bible and not skip around from one chapter to another in a disjointed manner. God wrote Ephesians with a specific intent--whch is interpreted correctly in it's context. Therefore, I read the books from beginning to end. I do jump from New Testament to Old and back, but always reading complete books. I outline the chapters and write notes about the book's general argument and how that chapter ties into the book’s theme and also, how it applies to my life. I also journal and pray in English/Spanish and/or tongues. The combination of reading, journaling and praying usually takes about 1.5 hours--except on Mondays, when it's about 3 hours. How do I do that and work a regular office job? First, my hours are flexible. Second, I put in plenty of time in the office. I'm usually in the office between 9 and 10 AM and I work until about 7:00 PM. After dinner, I may put in 1-2 hours more. I try not to work on Saturdays, apart from leading the Young Adults group on Saturday nights. Sometimes that means I have to do sermon prep on Saturday afternoon.

I can't tell you how much time is spent in prayer, versus Bible study or journaling; since I don't separate them much in my brain. When I'm reading the Bible out loud, I think of it as one form of prayer and praise. When I'm journaling, I'm often writing out a prayer. My goal for the whole process is to be honest with God. I see that as an important step towards hearing God's voice. That is to say, often we already know what God wants, but we have to be honest about our own motivations and desires before we can even see clearly. So, on a normal day, I spend a minimum of 2 hours in Bible study and prayer. In addition to that, a few days a week I go out for walks at night, during which I pray in tongues and English. This is in addition to the times when I'm praying while in transit or doing repetitive tasks. For example, when I'm riding the bus, I'm praying in tongues very quietly. (Here, a white guy on the bus looks pretty silly, since white guys drive luxury cars. So, a white guy mumbling to himself is just one more notch on the odd scale!)

Another strategy/tactic for one's devotional life is memorizing scripture. Lena does this every morning while going on a long walk. That way she gets the Word in her and she gets her heart beating. I do this sometimes on the elliptical. Be cautioned, this takes commitment. It bares incredible fruit, but at the cost of being very dry. Once you get the Word in your memory, you are much stronger in your faith and convictions. It is the primary key to hearing God's voice.

All of the above is somewhat separate from the practice of worship in my life. Worship (singing to and about the Lord) is a form of prayer--especially in that my goal is to open myself up to God's presence and enjoy the experience of His intimate presence. I do this in the car, sometimes with the help of a CD, but often just acapella. I also do it with the guitar. It used to be a daily practice, but now that I'm out of XA ministry and spend more time in an office (working with Latin America ChildCare), I don't do it as regularly. On Saturdays, we do family worship. Here I train the little ones to give their all in worship, and I train the big ones how to lead worship. We talk about the theology of the words and music, how to transition successfully, what kind of response we're looking for from the congregation, how to help people experience God's presence, how to do a good job without becoming puffed up, how to lead a Pentecostal/charismatic worship or a non-tongues and prophecy evangelical service. Of course, we have a general objective of experiencing God's presence and learning to be proficient on whatever instrument we happen to be playing that day (e.g., drums, guitar, violin, piano, percussion or bass). This is about 1 hour long for the little ones (who just want to watch TV) and goes longer for Hannah, Colton, Lena and Myself.

The final aspect of our daily devotions is sharing what we're reading, praying about, journaling about and what we think God is saying. Lena and I talk about this every day. We also share it with the kids, when it's appropriate. The community factor imperative in discerning the Spirit. God speaks to us when we bring things out into the light.

In terms of church activities, we all attend at least one Sunday service. The kids have chapel every week, as well as their respective Bible studies. Lena is in two women's groups. She and Hannah also help me in leading the Young Adults/College age group on Saturdays. I also preach/teach/lead worship in other churches on a regular basis.

I usually advise students to shoot for a 30 minute quiet time as a bare minimum. That should include some degree of Bible reading (two to three chapters a day), journaling and prayer. I don't do all three every day, but I do try to do all three every week. That is, some days are mostly reading and some are mostly prayer or journaling. One important goal for all of it is listening. Being able to adjust what you do enables you to respond to your current needs and gives you another option when the process gets boring. The goal must be to hear God's voice, know God's will and/or have God's perspective. That is very rewarding and takes much of the drudgery out of the discipline.


Michelle said...

Thank you Bill for sharing this! It was encouraging, yet challenging! You wrote " Be cautioned, this takes commitment. It bares incredible fruit, but at the cost of being very dry" - what did you mean being very dry? Just curious.
Thanks! Michelle Good

Michelle said...

Thank you Bill for sharing this! It was encouraging, yet challenging! You wrote " Be cautioned, this takes commitment. It bares incredible fruit, but at the cost of being very dry" - what did you mean being very dry? Just curious.
Thanks! Michelle Good

Bill and Lena Shrader said...

Michelle - Thanks for reading the post and for asking a great question. My intent was to say that memorizing scripture, especially large chunks--such as chapters or whole books, can be very boring. If that comprises most of your devotional life, you may be in danger of losing all motivation to have a devotional life. It requires a lot more intentionality than my usual practices of reading, journaling and praying.

Lena and I talked about it after I posted the entry. Her response was that scripture memorization is no longer boring for her. She does it every morning on a long walk. The practice of getting out and excercising, while memorizing the scriptures, has made it a win-win for her. She recently completed memorizing the book of 1 Peter. I never realized how deep it was, until she started quoting it in our daily conversations.