If you want to grow as a Christian, spending time with God should be a priority.
But, having consistent devotional time is challenging. Life is demanding and time with God often gets neglected.
Maybe you’ve tried for a week or two, or even a month, to spend consistent time with God, but it fizzles out.
How do you get it to stick? How do you get to have consistent devotional time?
Spending consistent time with God is not dependent on feelings, but on habit.
And habits take time to develop. They are formed by an action that is repeated over and over and over.
Like all new habits, quiet time with God won’t always feel great. Sometimes it will feel like a chore, like it’s holding you back from getting on with your day, or just an inconvenience.
But if you persevere, it will become automatic and soon your day won’t feel right without it.
Contrary to popular belief, it takes more than 30 days to develop a new habit. It takes anywhere between 66 – 250 days for a habit to become automatic. See this as a commitment for life.
When cues like time of day, place and circumstances are the same, it makes it easier to develop the habit. Schedule time for personal devotions at the same time every day, and never allow an exception. The formative stage of developing a habit is the most important and skipping a day will make it easier to skip another day, and before you know it you won’t be doing it at all.
Remind yourself why you are building this new habit of devotional time with God. Do you want to understand the Bible better? Do you want to learn how to walk with God? Do you want God to change you? Write it down somewhere and refer back to it often.
It may be your couch, a desk, or a quiet spot outside. Having a place where you only have devotional time will put you in the right frame of mind when you sit down.
If you have to remove a pile of stuff from your study place every day it’s going to be easier to skip devotional time. If you don’t have a dedicated desk to study at then get your spot ready the night before – put your Bible, notebook, pens
Make sure there is nothing to distract you from your time with God – no magazines, projects, or to-do lists. Unless you need your phone for a Bible study app, leave it somewhere where it won’t distract you. Studies show that if you keep your phone right by your side, it reduces available cognitive capacity (meaning that part of your mind is preoccupied with it, preventing you from focusing on what you are doing.)[i]
Don’t plan to tackle a massive Bible study for an hour every day. Aim for 10-20 minutes of prayer and an equal amount of time for Bible study. As your habit is established you can spend more time on devotions.
Mornings are best because your mind is fresh, and whatever you study will remain with you for the whole day. There are also fewer distractions while everyone is still asleep and your day hasn’t officially started yet.
Mornings begin the night before. This will take self-discipline – it’s easy to get distracted looking at social media or watching YouTube videos when you should be going to sleep. If you’re not a morning person it will be more difficult for you to wake up early, but you can train your body to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier.
Just do it. Your brain doesn’t like change and it will come up with all sorts of reasons not to have quiet time – too tired, don’t feel like it, too busy
Related: 4 Ways to Grow as a Christian
This should be something that is already part of your schedule and automatic – like taking a shower, or brushing your teeth. If the trigger takes work, then you will be trying to form two habits instead of one. It should occur as often and in the same environment as your devotional time.
For example, after your morning shower (must already be a habit) then immediately go to your spot for quiet time with God.
Do this every day. Taking the shower is the cue that becomes the trigger for the new habit. The new habit must follow right after it.
By doing this, you are anchoring something that is not automatic (new habit of devotional time) onto something that is completely automatic (cue – taking a shower). The new habit will become automatic too because it is connected to the trigger.
The importance of the trigger is that your brain will associate the new habit with the trigger. Because of this, you must only do the new habit right after the trigger, every time. Not sooner or later. If you don’t do it right after the trigger your brain won’t build the connection.
For devotional time to become a habit it has to be repeated, and to ensure repetition it must be a priority. Schedule it and do it.
Follow all these steps and you will soon be enjoying consistent quiet time.
Do you struggle with consistent quiet time? Which of these steps is most helpful to you?
[i] “The mere presence of one’s own smartphone may occupy limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance. Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity.”