I am a list-maker. I’m not a type-A perfectionist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m word-lover and I’m a scatterbrain and so lists are a must. My daily lists vary a lot. I live at home, so many times my list has “take boys to football practice” or “read to Jubilee” or “grocery shop.” I try to throw “exercise” on there a few times a week and “blog” and “put laundry away.” And you know what? I often write “Bible and prayer” on my list too, and that used to make me feel guilty.
Why should I have to put God on a to-do list? He doesn’t want to be your top priority, I hear my youth group leader telling me. He wants to be your life, your everything. I blink at that to-do list for a moment and feel like a bona fide failure. Obviously, God is not “my everything.” If He were my everything, He wouldn’t have to be on a list of reminders of things to think about, right?
Well, no. Not exactly. Here are four reasons I no longer feel guilty about putting Bible and prayer on my daily to-do list:
1. I’m not putting God on a list.
Yes, I admit it! The title was misleading!
When you write “pay bills” on your to-do list, you are reminding yourself a specific task you must complete that day. You see the item on the list, you sit down and pay the bills you owe and you check that item off the list and move on. If you put God on your to-do list, you would be making something very, very small of God. You would be “acknowledging Him” not in all your ways, but for one moment. Maybe listening to Him for five minutes, saying a prayer and then checking Him off the list for the day. Done with His presence, preference and position.
However, when you remind yourself to read Scripture and intentionally pray, you are not putting God Almighty on a list, you are merely taking your spiritual disciplines seriously.
God is not confined in your “quiet time.” Your interaction with Him and the blessings that come from being in His presence, meditating on His Word and listening for His guidance are closely related to how well you focus on Him, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is an immeasurable, unchangeable, mighty and glorious God.
2. Every relationship takes intentionality.
The other reason I tend to feel bad about having to, in essence, write “spend time with God” on my checklist is that it seems so impersonal. In a sense, it is. But on the other hand, every healthy relationship takes intentionality. We cannot get married in a whirlwind of emotion and expect to just sit back and relax as we continually fall deeper into love for as long as we both shall live!
I have to write “read to Jubilee” on my list, not because I wake up every morning forgetting I have a little sister that I love to spend time with, but because my days are busy and I am easily distracted and I may forget to do specific things with her. I have to remind myself to call my friends on their birthdays. Will I forget I have a friend or that they have a birthday? Of course not, but I will forget to make the effort to show them I care.
Being intentional sometimes looks like being impersonal, but in fact, it can make a relationship much, much more personal in the long run.
3. I will forget.
As I mentioned above, I will forget. I am a forgetful person, always leaving my keys in “my other purse” or dashing out the door because I forgot an appointment until the moment I’m supposed to be there.
I also think there is likely a spiritual side to “forgetting” to read the Bible and pray. God tells us we will be attacked for our righteousness. Isn’t it possible that Satan will plan distractions, doubts or a simple brain blank when we were planning on going to God about something?
Either way, I have to write it down some days because otherwise, I will forget. If it makes you feel any better, I sometimes have to put “take a shower” on there too!
4. Fake it ‘till you make it.
Last but not least, you should fake it until you make it. Or rather, you should put disciplines and guidelines in your life until prayer, reading the Word and listening for the voice of God is natural to you. Obviously, I don’t really expect you to “fake” anything (God knows our hearts!). What we can do is make goals for ourselves. This doesn’t give us a less personal relationship with God; it gives us a relationship with God in the first place!
His word is full of commandments to “come before His throne” and “offer up prayers of thanksgiving” and “hide His word in your hearts” and “bind His promises around your necks.” These aren’t things to separate us from a Holy God, but things to unite us to Him while we live in an unholy world.
You see, the Holy Spirit is God-With-Us and we cannot smash Him into a tiny box, diminish Him to an item on our pithy to-do lists or imagine Him away once we are “done” with Him for the day. The Spirit is alive and will move in ways we can never anticipate, call us to things we could never come up with on our own and speak to us in a language we didn’t know we understood. He cannot be confined or depleted. We must be open to Him with everything we are.
One way to make sure our eyes and ears and hearts and hands are open to this great and glorious Creator? Make sure we sit before Him regularly. Make sure we don’t get too distracted to acknowledge Him in all our ways. Make sure we know His messages backward and forward and will recognize His voice when He calls.
(originally published in 2014)
Photography: JenniMarie Photography