I probably shouldn’t have included the word ‘exercise’ in the title. Exercise and I don’t always get along. Don’t get me wrong, I have good intentions, I know it’d be good for me, and I’ll make a start and keep going for a little while, but then there always seems to be something that comes up or another reason not to do it.
On the other hand, exercise as an analogy for the time we spend in devotion to God may fit more than I’m comfortable with…
We use the word ‘devotion’ to describe time where our focus is on God and our relationship with God. It is very much like prayer, and indeed should be an expression of prayer – but can incorporate all kinds of different practices; like reflecting on scripture, reading (or listening to) someone’s experience or wisdom as they talk about faith and life, or simply slowing down to intentionally pay attention to God with gratitude – which could happen in prayer at the end of the day, or on a walk outside.
Set a time, create a rhythm.
A key to turning good intentions into actions is making sure there is time set aside for it. Worship through the week does involve growing into an awareness of God’s presence at all times, and offering the whole of our lives to God. Yet having specific ‘anchor points’ through the week – whether it be gathering for worship with other Christians or having specific daily times for devotion (early in the morning, in the evening, or perhaps over the lunch break) can help keep us spiritually grounded and more open to listening to and looking for God through the day.
Figure out what works for you and start to create a habit around it. Watch out for the things that will crowd it out over time. I know, it’s easier said than done to find a time with fewer interruptions.
How Long, O Lord?
How long should we spend on daily devotionals? It depends on you and your circumstances. How about: long enough that it doesn’t feel like something perfunctory we check off the daily routine, short enough that we can keep with it over the long haul, and flexible enough that we find ourselves spending longer times with God at some points, and able to ‘check in’ in the midst of frantic days.
What to do in that time?
Here’s where the exercise analogy can be helpful again. Start with something you naturally gravitate toward (reading / music / prayer / listening to a podcast), and every once in a while, switch it up to a different method, just the way we exercise different muscles.
Some days, it’ll feel great to have that devotional time – you will feel closer to God, feel a sense of peace, just feel like it was a good thing to do. Other days, you may not feel anything. Which can, actually, feel frustrating. This is normal. Remember that we’re not chasing feelings about God, we’re focusing on God and our relationship with God. These are habits that form us over the long haul.