My usual process of spending time with God used to be to jump right into praying or reading Scripture. But there were so many times when I felt like I something was off. And then it hit me.
What if the problem was from my lack of preparation?
What if my prayer time was short because my mind was wandering around all over the place? And does how I am feeling at the moment impact my time with God?
I think it does. If I didn’t get much sleep last night, then I probably won’t be very enthusiastic about studying the Bible.
I want to offer three simple practices that I use to prepare my mind, heart, and body before spending time with God.
1. Enter into the Present Moment
Before we pray or read Scripture, we must be able to lay aside our busy lives and worries to enter into the present moment. There are three things that I do to help with this.
First, I take several deep breaths. This not only helps me physically relax, but it also helps me deal with any anxious thoughts.
Second, I like to take note of my location, my goal, and the time. “Right now it is 7:37 PM on a Monday evening and I am sitting in my room. I am about to read Scripture to hear from God.”
Third, I try to take any stray thoughts and give them to the Lord. I ask Him to help me lay those aside for the moment and focus on Him.
Now my thoughts are focused. But we are more than just minds and intellects.
2. Take an Emotional and Physical Inventory
If you would have told me to do this a year ago, I would have brushed it off as completely irrelevant when it comes to spending time with God. But we are physical beings and bodies and emotions affect us in all kinds of ways.
I begin by asking myself how I feel. Am I feeling good or bad? Am I feeling joyful? Am I feeling tired or lonely? I love using a Feelings Wheel like this one to help me identify my emotions. Then I acknowledge those feelings to the Lord.
As one who struggles with anxiety, another practice that I have found helpful is called a body scan. I start from the top of my head and go down one section of my body at a time all the way down to my feet. As I go through each area, I focus on it to see if I am feeling tension or uneasiness. If so, then I ask the Lord to calm that part of my body and help me relax.
3. Acknowledge God’s Presence
At this point, I have entered into the present moment, dealt with my racing thoughts, and recognized how I am feeling both emotionally and physically. Now I am in a better place to focus on God and hear from Him.
Here I confess my sins and shortcomings before the Lord and receive His grace and forgiveness. I welcome and acknowledge that God is present with me. I sometimes repeat short verses such as: “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10).
I also like to take a moment and mediate on God’s promises like John 15:7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
I try to remember that no matter what happens, I can experience communion with God. I know that I can abide in His love for me, and that my joy can be full just as He promises (John 15:9-11).
So before you begin your time with God, I encourage you to experiment with these simple practices. And I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments and if you already do something similar to this!