Creating Space in Your Life for God

by Alexei Laushkin

So how do we end up creating space in our life for God, for our faith to flourish, for our inner man to grow? How do we grow in daily confidence in order to trust an all gracious and all merciful Lord?

Does such space just happen because we desire it?

How many times have you opened the scriptures or set aside time for prayer and been left feeling that it was rather root and lifeless.

How are we to create such space and such a life for ourselves that we might more fully take on the character and characteristics of Christ.

The Gospels Point to the Way

The beatitudes have some very telling examples. Let’s take a look at some of them in the Gospel of Matthew. Here’s Matthew 5:6:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

And Matthew 5:8:

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

When I was in college I can remember reading the Sermon on the Mount in this way. So when I read Matthew 5:6. Blessed are those who thirst and hunger for righteousness, I thought to myself, oh Jesus means, blessed are those who really want to be righteous. So if I really want to be righteous than I’m blessed.

It took me years to think differently on some of these passages. Or consider the Psalms. Psalm 34:8:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Taste, see, thirst, hunger. 

These are all bodily senses. We taste, we see, we thirst, we hunger. When we want food and we don’t have it, we hunger. When we want water and don’t have it we thirst. When we taste we are satisfied. When we see, we believe.

Now let’s go over to the resurrection account in the Gospel of John. Here’s Jesus when Thomas sees him and believes. John 20:29:

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’

The senses. They are a powerful tool for confirming and strengthening our faith, and just as powerfully thinking on the beatitudes, working the senses to hunger for Christ the way we hunger for food, to thirst for righteousness the way we might thirst for water, to cultivate the inner eye so that it does see and believe, and to desire the things of God, this takes grace and the physical interacting in such a way that the physical in our life changes.

We are so driven by our senses, that to attune our senses to the things of God is the first step to making time for God. Most of the time when we are having trouble making any time for God it is because our bodies and senses are operating according to a different principle.

If you were a school teacher and in the middle of a lesson to your students you were asked to do a task that was too outside of what you were doing (say prepare a meal), your mind and body would not and could not easily orient to this task being presented in the middle of your focus being elsewhere. You would literally fumble around and likely get irritated for being distracted from the task at hand.

Something very similar happens to our spiritual life, without focus and without the nourishment we need to depend on God and to know that more deeply, we can not bring ourselves to any attention to the things of God.

The Good News

Making time with God, especially time that engages our heart, mind, body, and soul is life giving work. If you attend to the Lord, it will be a rich blessing in your life. For some people, your life might be too busy, and you might literally have to take time away in God’s creation, or a special place that’s important to you to even start. For others, it may be a matter of not trying to fit God in to a busy life, but applying basic Christian principles to your work life or to your home life.

You might decide this week Lord I am going to focus on gratitude, and put attention to saying thank you to everything that you receive. Might be a routine work matter or a simple thank you for a greeting, but if you put attention to letting your faith sink more deeply into your life, you’ll start seeing more and more where you’d like to put your focus.

Growing in Christ, and growing in dependence, is a lifelong endeavor. There are guides for reading through scripture (click here or here), learning how to pray (click here),  finding resources for your kids (click here), and on and on and on.

Finding a good spiritual mentor or brother or elder may very much help you and encourage you in growing in time with God. But if you are having trouble start thinking about how your focus and your spiritual life interacts with your physical life and you’ll quickly find tools and places to grow.

Alexei Laushkin is Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network,  a Board Member of the Kingdom Mission Society,  and writer of the Foolishconfidence blog. His views are his own. 

 

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Making Time for God

How do you make time for God? Many Christians have a great desire to spend time with God, but it never seems to translate to action. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we lack the time; other times we are simply unsure of where to start or even how to cultivate the desire for a devotional/prayer life.  We catch ourselves saying, “I wish I could start the day with an hour of prayer, but given my commitments that’s not very realistic,” or “I know I want to spend time with God but where do I start?”

Without guidance the whole issue of how to develop a prayer life can become bewildering.

So how does one go from barely reading scripture or praying; to spending a robust amount of time in prayer, reading, or reflection of some sort?

The simple, one word answer: repentance. A devotional life begins with needing to cultivate some desire for it. The surest way to cultivate an honest desire for God is repentance. You might ask, “Repent? For what?”

For everything, more specifically repent for our lack of desire for a devotional life. You may want to choose some phrases to help. Many Christians use the Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But other phrases from scripture or like in spirit can be easily used. A few examples:

  • The wages of sin is death.
  • Give an account for your management of the household.
  • Remember from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first.

Cultivating a prayer and devotional life is a bit more akin to being serious about going to the gym or getting into physical shape. At first it’s going to be slow and hard work. You aren’t going to want to develop a prayer life. Instead you’ll find it comforting to go back to old patterns rather quickly. That’s why repentance is crucial. Repentance brings us back to our unwillingness to really cultivate our faith. The process of developing a prayer life will humble you and that sort of humbling is a key ingredient for living a life of faith.

After repentance you need to choose some set course of study or rule (set form for study). This is probably the hardest thing to do, especially in an age that values spontaneity and experience, at some point all of that feeling has to give way to a decision. The good news is that there are a lot of things one could do. There’s the Book of Common Prayer (here‘s an easy to use online version)  which has very set prayers for morning and evening. There’s also a whole host of audio prayer devotions, and scripture readings. Here is an audio devotional from the Jesuit tradition and here is a long listing of options from http://www.biblegateway.com.

Some elements that are worth looking for as you decide where to start. Look for something that has some scripture to work through or think about. Look for something that you will do in repetition. This is a key point. In the beginning your prayer/devotional life can’t really survive off of spontaneity. If you have to start with five minutes a day, twice a day, than that’s what you do. Like weight lifting start at something you can repeat and explore from there. A prayer life is something you cultivate and develop; it doesn’t just happen because you want it to.

You aren’t going to go from nothing to a robust devotional life in a short period of time. Realize that patience will be a key ingredient to cultivating a life of faith. So you are looking for something to build on.

Practice. Not just doing the devotion, but implementing the ideas and truths in scripture in your daily life.  Faith without works is dead. Devotion without practice won’t build up a life of faith. The scriptures have to be infused in your day to day life to strengthen your faith. It’s not enough to think about theology and about prayer and about scripture, integrate them with specific people and specific circumstances and you will find that your understanding of scripture and desire for a devotional life grows.

Faith comes by hearing and doing. A devotional life comes with cultivating a desire for it by living out what we learn.