The Most Important Time of the Day

KODAK Digital Still CameraMy pastor once told a story about a famous pianist and his daily commitment to practice his music. The pianist said if he missed one day he could tell. If he missed two days his friends and family could tell. If he missed three days the world could tell.

The pastor used the story in comparison to Christians who miss their daily time spent in prayer and reading the Bible. I never forgot the story. I’ve experienced it in my own life and I know it’s true.

When I first became a Christian, I went to church every week but rarely opened my Bible between services. This pattern continued for years until I joined First Place 4 Health, which is a Christian-based weight loss group.

In the First Place program we had daily commitments to keep each day, and we checked them off on our little cardboard trackers. The spiritual commitments included a daily time of prayer, scripture reading, and scripture memory. Being a perfectionist, I hated seeing unchecked boxes on my tracker, so I started to get up early each morning to have my quiet time.

Little did I know how much it would change my life. While I didn’t follow the eating and exercise parts of the program like I should have, I continued with the spiritual commitments. I noticed a difference in my attitude right away. There was just something about starting my day off with scripture and prayer that seemed to make the day go better.

I’m pretty consistent with my daily quiet time,  but every now and then I get side tracked and neglect it. Like the pianist, I can tell when I’m getting careless about my daily devotional time.

I seem to get off track now more than I did in previous years when my children were still living at home. I often think how strange it is that I struggle to have my quiet time more now when I live alone than when I had a houseful of kids to feed and run to activities.

Why is it more difficult now? I believe it’s because my life is filled with more distractions from technology. It’s not uncommon for my cell phone to be beeping with new text messages all hours of the night or early in the morning. There’s email to check and computers to update and the pull of favorite TV shows to watch on the DVR.

Life is rarely quiet with the advancing world of technical gadgets beeping and ringing constantly. I’m always checking my email to keep on top of my writing business and client needs. It’s not unusual for me to stay up until the wee hours of the morning working, which makes getting up early less attractive.

Like many people, I’ve been caught by the technology bug and it erodes my daily quiet time more often than I care to admit.  Do I really need to check my email or Facebook a dozen times a day? Of course not. Like anything else, when used within limits, technology and social media can be beneficial and good. When used excessively they divert our attention from more important things.

Like the piano player, I can tell when I’m out of practice with my daily quiet time. I find myself struggling more with depression, impatience, and thinking unkind thoughts about certain people in my life. I find myself feeling angry at my husband and the other woman more often, or worse yet thinking about getting revenge for what they did to me.

When I’m not in the word and soaking up Biblical truth daily, I see changes in my life that aren’t pretty, and I’m sure those around me can notice a difference too.

When I set aside the first part of the day to spend with God, I feel like my life is in control.  Jumping out of bed and right into the day without meeting with God first is sort of like telling God, “I don’t need you today. I can handle this on my own.”

Even Jesus made time to get up early and pray in the midst of his busy schedule. Reading the first chapter of Mark always helps me put things into perspective when I think I’m too busy to have my quiet time.

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

In the scriptures leading up to Mark 1: 35, we see Jesus at work teaching in the synagogue, dealing with evil spirits, and healing a woman with a fever. In fact, after his already full and busy day it says the entire town gathered at his door after sunset. The people had brought all the sick and demon-possessed people to him, and Jesus healed many of them and drove out demons.

It certainly doesn’t sound like Jesus had an easy day at the office. He didn’t come home and sink into the recliner to watch TV. His work and ministry continued past sunset. But the next morning, instead of sleeping in, Jesus got up very early and went off to have time alone in prayer before he started another full day.

Setting aside some time each day for prayer and Bible reading, no matter how small,  is the most important thing we will do in our Christian walk. It’s the best way to protect ourselves from attacks from Satan and to stay grounded in our faith.

Your daily quiet time will look different from mine. Each season of life brings unique challenges with it, and we may have to adjust our schedules to accommodate husbands, children, work, and family needs.

Whether we choose to set aside some time in the morning or at another time during the day for our quiet time,  the important thing is consistency. Carving out a few minutes a day to spend in prayer and reading the Bible is a necessary discipline in every season of life.

Beautiful musical pieces are composed as a result of daily and consistent practice. Beautiful Christian lives are created as a result of daily and consistent time spent with our Heavenly father. When we spend time with him, others will see his beauty reflected in us.

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