For the past few weeks, we’ve talked about incorporating rhythms into our lives in order to engage with God throughout the day. The series kicked off with the challenge of living in the awareness that “in Him, we live and move and breathe.” And during the past few Sundays, we’ve discussed different ways to weave rhythms throughout the day so that we are in constant conversation with Him.
But new habits don’t develop overnight. And as Pastor Chris has explained, we often must first acknowledge and embrace the disabilities that keep us from hearing how God is speaking into our lives. Here are five guidelines if you’re struggling to develop rhythms that lead to a meaningful conversation with Him.
1). Start small
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are daily habits. Be patient with yourself and aware of what is and isn’t a realistic addition to your routine. If you already find it difficult to pray first thing in the morning ― whether it’s because you have kids or because you’re usually scrambling to get out the door ― trying to make prayer work at that time will likely just lead to disappointment.
Instead, build new habits around old habits. Evaluate the places where God Time can complement your already established routine. Maybe it’s during the hour you have carved out for lunch, or during your kids’ naptime. Or maybe prayer fits into your morning run and also during your commute home. If you’re struggling to make something stick, try starting with something simple, like engaging with God for a few minutes every time you brush your teeth. Then expand the conversation to other parts of your day.
2). Work on changing the conversation
In Thessalonians, Paul tells us to be joyful and pray continually. As Pastor Chris said a few weeks ago, Paul is calling on us to change the conversation. Instead of talking to yourself all day, talk to Him ― just as you would talk to a friend. If you find the conversation drifting back to you (and you likely will), try exercising that muscle through journaling. Instead of journaling for yourself, write as if you were talking to God.
3). Tame your wandering mind
Create space to talk to Him with limited distractions. Pinpoint where your mind is going instead and try eliminating it. If you find yourself staring at dirty laundry and dishes in the sink, head to a coffee shop or the pier. And if it’s your phone that’s distracting you, leave it at home.
If your mind is still going elsewhere, find something to rein it in. For those who find it particularly difficult to sit still and focus, try meditating on His word with scripture-based adult coloring books (yes, really). Coloring reduces activity in the amygdala ― where our worries and other stress-induced emotions originate ― and is a meditation unto itself. While your mind might still wander, it can’t go far. So try dreaming and creating alongside God while illustrating scripture. As an added bonus, you’ll probably memorize a new verse by the time you’re done.
4). Set reminders
If you struggle with forgetfulness (as we all do), try creating reminders for yourself, at least until a new rhythm becomes a full-fledged habit. Set an alarm on your phone to train yourself to engage with God at a certain time, or leave a Post-It note where you’ll see it each day (on a mirror, in your car, at work).
Or, try an app. Several people in our church family use the Abide app, which offers daily prayer guides targeted toward specific areas, such as anxiety, gratitude, growth and rest. You can set up the app to send you a daily reminder notification at a specified time.
Triggers also might prove helpful. Pick something quirky that sticks out in your mind and will remind you to engage with God whenever you see it. Maybe it’s a type of car or a song on the radio. Or perhaps something more in your face ― like a memory verse that’s on your phone’s wallpaper or engraved on a bracelet ― will work.
5). Own your failure
You know when you forget to return someone’s call or email, then avoid that person out of guilt when you run into them? Don’t let that be your relationship with God.
Inevitably, your disabilities will get in the way. So when you fail to engage with God, own up to that failure and release any guilt that comes with it. Because when you move closer to God, God will move closer to you.
Did you miss any part of the Rhythms series? Listen to it here.