Heart and mind feeling disconnected from God? Follow the 6 spiritual habits to reconnect.
Are there times you feel like God is nowhere to be found? It seems like your heart and mind just cannot get connected to God. You are not alone. I and my husband (a pastor) have come across many individuals like this over the years. On the bright side there is a simple solution: following the six spiritual habits.
To be completely honest, the reason why we often feel disconnected from God and wonder where the heck is He, is because it is us, not God, who has walked away. We cannot just check the "saved" box or "went to church" box and think these will lead to a deep and abiding relationship with God. To have a relationship, with anyone -- including God, requires effort. There is no way around it.
For example, if I want to feel connected to my son, I have to do the necessary things to be connected. I need to talk to him, participate in activities with him, listen to him, ponder the questions or suggestions he raises. If I just gave my son a cursoryglance and hello, our relationship would disintegrate. It is true and we all know it to be true. So, why do we think we can give God a cursory glance and think that will infuse a rich and abiding relationship? It will not, and then we get frustrated and think God does not care when God has been there all along.
You just have to follow the six spiritual habits. No way around this. And yes, I am being super serious right now. The six habits are: daily devotionals, Christian community, sabbath holiness, tithing, missions, and witness. I thought I was going to do a three-part series and cover two habits in each blog, however, as I started writing on daily devotionals and it became longer and longer, I realized, I am just going to have to do one blog on each habit. And the first blog in this series is on daily devotionals.
I know what some of you are thinking. Do you really mean daily devotionals? Like, every day daily devotionals? Yes and no. That is exactly what I mean. Just keep reading. Spending time reading scripture and praying are just important. There is no way around these two things. How can we call ourselves Christians if we do not even read our holy book or take time to pray to God?
There are so many ways to have a devotional and there is no one correct way. Some ways may be better than others, but I (and more importantly, God) would rather you have a devotional which works for you and your season of life than not have one at all. I will just list a few of the different ways to have a devotional: reading scripture straight from the Bible, using an online devotional/bible study website or an app, devotional/bible study books, devotional/bible study podcasts, stations of the cross, walking a labyrinth, pilgrimages, journaling, painting, and the list goes on. A devotional is simply an intentional time of connecting with God and should consist of reading scripture, praying, and silence.
There are so many ways to have a devotional because at different stages and in the various seasons of our lives, we connect better to God in distinct ways. And, if you have been having devotionals for a while, you know a change of pace helps deepen the connection with God. Just an FYI, while I am talking about daily devotionals, there is a difference between using a devotional book or a bible study for your devotional. A devotional app or book is usually topic driven. The author has picked a topic and then fits a verse(s) to the topic. A bible study is looking at specific scriptures and seeking to understand what God is trying to say through those verses. They both are beneficial.
When I first became a Christian, as a teenager, just reading scripture straight out of the bible worked for me. I did not use a devotional book and there were no such things as online Christian websites or apps. I just used what I had, the Bible. Now, for some of you, maybe you tried that, and you were miserable, especially if you started trying to read the Bible from front to back. If you are new to the faith, I would not recommend this kind of devotional. If you want to read from the Bible, then start in the New Testament and read a chapter at a time. If you come to something that speaks to you, then sit with that word or verse for a while, you do not need to keep on reading. Let God speak to you and pray.
If you have at least read through the New Testament, and want to read through the Old Testament, then go ahead, one chapter at a time. I would recommend a study bible so it can give you background and explanations as to why you are reading certain things. For example, the book of Numbers is just hard to get through on its own without some historical background and theological information. So, just do yourself a favor and get a study bible. Or you can try a bible study app like First5, or you can find the same material at the main host website at First5.org. As I write this blog, the First5 app is literally walking through the book of Numbers verse by verse with theological explanation and historical background.
If you try this out and it seems too heavy for you, no worries, that is when a devotional book like Jesus Calling by Sarah Young would better serve you or there is even the Jesus Calling app. Or you might like the Proverbs 31 devotionals.
There are times when I am doing my devotionals that I am bored, I am not getting enough out of what I am using. If that happens too much with the material I am using, I have to change to something else and you will need to do the same. As you grow in your walk with the Lord, your devotionals will need to change. Or maybe you have a traumatic experience you go through which may necessitate a change of devotional material or how you do your devotionals. When my mother died, I used a devotional website (not a bible study website), and I began journaling and painting as part of my quite time.
If you have never really had devotionals or stopped and started, then start with Jesus Calling. When you work that that then go to Time with God. Then, get a one year or two-year study bible and read through the entire bible. (And please get a version you can read...check out my earlier blog on this topic). After this, try a bible study app or bible study book that dives deeply into one book. Just use what works for you and will keep you doing a daily devotional. I have recommended my Old and New Testament college textbooks to some people because they were just in a space where they needed to understand in-depth historical background. They would read about Genesis from the college textbook and then read Genesis in the Bible. It worked for them.
So, what time of day should you do your devotional? An answer: whatever time ensures you will do one. If listening to the scriptures while you are driving is the only way to fit it in with your current life circumstances, then do that. In the evening after everyone has gone to bed. Do that. Just do it. If you ask me is there perhaps a better time of day to do your devotional? Yes, in the morning before you begin your day. There is simply something about starting your day off in God's word that just sets your mind straight for the day and helps you get your priorities in order. I have not found anyone who says this is not the case. However, even though I work full-time and have two part-time jobs, I am willing to get up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning for my devotional time. You may want to gouge your eyes out at the mere thought of getting up any earlier to do a bible study. And guess what? It is perfectly fine if you do not want to get up earlier. I would not have gotten up at 5:00 a.m. to do a devotional at any point of my life until now and God has not struck me with lightning because of it.
As part of your devotional time, you should also pray. Prayer is simply talking with and listening to God. You can pray before, during, or after you read your bible....or you can do all of the above. Whatever feels right to you. More than likely, it will change over time. I always used to read scripture first then pray. After my mom died, I prayed first, read scripture, and prayed some more.
If you do not know how to pray, then start by using the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13:
Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, forever. Amen. (KJV) (One of the few times I like the KJV.)
If you want to pray your own prayer, but do not know how, then follow the ACTS method of prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Adoration is where we praise God for who God is and what God does. The focus is completely on God.
Confession is where we lay our mistakes at God's feet, where we have done wrong and not honored or God or maybe even hurt others. With confession, there are three parts. First, we name our sins (the stuff we do wrong, and we have all done wrong) because it is in the naming and the speaking of those areas that we get freedom. After naming our sins we name the things which others have done to us and where there is unforgiveness. (God has forgiven us, so we need to forgive others.) The third part of confession is repentance. Where we look at our sins and then see if there are things we need to change or do different in our lives so we will stop doing those wrong things and we tell God this is something we are going to actively work upon. By doing this, God will help us help ourselves in these troublesome areas.
Thanksgiving is where we thank God for all the good, He has done in our and others' lives. For example, good health reports, a new job, or new baby. And supplication is where we prayer for ourselves and for others. We might pray for needs, health, or wants. In both thanksgiving and supplications we include others because the focus does not always need to be upon us.
You can also pray scripture. I was taught this in college by my freshman religion professor. For example, take Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NIV) You can pray this over yourself, by inserting "me" or "I" for the "you": "May the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in him, so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Or, you can insert your friend's name: "May the God of hope fill Susan with all joy and peace as she trusts in him, so that she may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
You can do this with a lot of scriptures. In fact, when I learned how to do this, the professor gave us a specific scripture he wanted us to pray over each individual in our group, every day. The eight of us spent 5-6 months praying the same scripture for each person. That was a powerful and uplifting experience. It still lifts my spirit when I come across it in the bible and often brings tears to my eyes. Here is what we prayed:
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that
he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (NIV)
Silence means to stop praying and just listen. What is God trying to say to you? What do you need to learn or understand? Literally ask God those questions Or, if you have something you have been wrestling with, then bring it to God.
I recommend starting small, sit five minutes in silence and try this until it becomes comfortable and natural. Then bump it up to ten minutes, then 15, and so forth and so on until you can sit for an hour. Pick a physical space that allows for silence and perhaps use a scent that helps define this time. Keep going back to your word, phrase, or question. If you get monkey mind, no worries, just go back to what you need to focus upon. Be kind to yourself as interruptions will occur or you might become super distracted. There is always tomorrow.
At one retreat I attended, we would spend an hour in silence with God twice a day. One hour, with God, no talking, and just one question. One day, the speaker gave us a choice of two questions, I picked, "How do I show hospitality?" I walked a labyrinth, walked to the water, walked the trails and for a solid 50 minutes I drew a complete blank. Did not hear a thing from God. And then, all of a sudden it was there, the answer to question. God gave it to me, and its truth rung to the marrow of my bones.
Sometimes it takes an hour or hours to hear what we need to hear or other times it is in a matter of minutes or instantaneously. Just depends on where we are in our walk with God, how hardheaded we are regarding the particular situation, and how pressing our need is, or how difficult the situation or trauma.
So, near the beginning of the blog, I mentioned you might be thinking do I really mean every day daily devotionals and I answered yes and no. Yes, you should have daily devotionals every day, hence the word "daily." However, it should never become something which is another box to be checked off. To do devotionals in this way would miss the point entirely. Also, devotionals are meant for us not us for the devotionals. In other words, devotionals are meant to be life giving not a rule which must be rigidly adhered to for adherence’s sake. If you are sick, lay down and sleep, the devotional can wait. Your friend gets rushed to the hospital, go the hospital and skip your quite time. The morning did not turn out as planned, then shorten or skip your devotional. And, on Sundays, if you want to count church as your time of connecting with God, then do so.
Trust me when I say, you will know when missing a devotional was in your best interest or not. And the more you do devotionals you will find if you miss one your day just does not seem to go well. It is almost like we are meant to be in connection with God. It is so much more important that you regularly have devotionals and grow in your walk with God, then not do them at all or make them a sacrosanct event which makes you miserable in the end.
Come back to read next week's blog on Christian community. Feel free to follow me on Instagram or Facebook. If you feel led: comment, post, and share my blog on social media posts with others.