As we unwind from the holiday hustle and bustle and look forward to a new year that is ready to be established with heavenly goals in view, purpose to abandon the “Martha mentality” of having a rushed soul, and instead choose to still yourself before the Lord. No matter if your to-do list has two or twenty things on it, Leslie shares practical tips to growing in spiritual strength through all seasons of life! Tune in today and with fresh resolve set forth to accomplish His plans for your life and His glory.
Leslie Ludy: Hey, everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. Today we’re going to be looking at how to grow spiritually during busy seasons. With the holidays and a new year starting, I’m sure so many of you can relate to that feeling of “go, go, go.” How [do] we keep our relationship with Christ strong during seasons like that? It’s definitely something that I wrestle with quite a bit in my life being in full-time ministry, having six kids, having a very busy life, and yet wanting to keep my relationship with Christ as the highest priority. I want to share some practicals with you today that have helped me continue to grow spiritually even during extremely busy seasons of my life.
Tip No. 1: Schedule Time With the Lord
Leslie Ludy: One of my very favorite quotes from Corrie ten Boom is when she said this, “Don’t pray when you feel like it, rather, have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.” What great advice when it comes to prayer because we so often think that prayer is the thing that can be shuffled around and pushed to the side. “Well, I can’t do it today because I have this going on …” and pretty soon we find that a week or two goes by, and we haven’t spend any time with the Lord! But when we have this principle in mind that we’re going to make an appointment with Him, and we’re going to keep and guard it – even during busy times – it really helps to make prayer your highest priority.
Often, especially during busy times, prayer isn’t going to be what you “feel” like doing because you feel like sleeping in, getting extra rest, doing something relaxing, or getting something checked off your list. But when you set a regular appointment with God and honor it whenever possible – now obviously, if an emergency comes up that’s one thing – but whenever possible, you honor that appointment, no matter what your feelings or your physical body might be telling you, your soul will be benefitted.
Leveraging the Morning Hours to Seek Christ
Leslie Ludy: For me, in my current stage of life, usually the best appointment for me to have with the Lord is early in the morning before my kids wake up. I think that’s actually true for a lot of us. It’s the one time of day when it’s quiet, and we won’t be interrupted by other things. But it’s easy to groan at the thought of setting an appointment with the Lord early in the morning. For most of us, getting up early is not very easy for us. If you’re a mom of young kids maybe you’ve been up at night with kids, it’s sometimes not the easiest thing to do. But I love what Elisabeth Elliot said, “The best time for most people is early morning, not because most of us love jumping out of bed, but because it’s the only time of day when we can be fairly sure of not being interrupted and because it is best to commune with God before you commune with people.” I love that statement!
She wrote, “Your attitude toward people will be able to arise out of your life in Christ. Offering to God the first hour of the day is a token of consecration of all of your time.”
Now it doesn’t have to be early morning, but I love her perspective that getting right with God, making Him your first priority, and flooding your mind, heart, and spirit with heavenly perspective before you even start to interact with other people is such a wonderful way to lay a godly, Christ-centered foundation for your day.
Even if you look at Scripture, there is a high value placed on waking up early, sometimes even before dawn, and giving the firstfruits of our day to God in prayer, worship, and seeking His face. Here are just a few Scriptures:
Psalm 63:1, “You are my God; early I will seek You; My soul thirsts for You …”
Psalm 57:8, “Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn.”
And the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, “Arises while it is yet night …” (See Proverbs 31:5.)
And Jesus Himself set a very clear example for us of rising early to seek the Father’s face. It says in Mark 1:35, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
There is something so right about getting up early to seek God in prayer. Prayer is so powerful no matter when we do it, but there is something extra-powerful about early morning prayer. It’s sort of like the ultimate way to deny flesh and self from the very beginning of our day; to silence our excuses and yield to the Spirit of God. It’s an opportunity to declare with our lives, and not just our lips, that Jesus truly is our most important priority. And it gives the Spirit of God rather than our fleshly desires the first say.
John Bunyan once wrote, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”
Personally I have found this principle to be very true in my own life. If I allow myself to oversleep and miss my time in God’s presence, sometimes it can make the whole day feel off. But when I discipline my body and make my early morning prayer a non-negotiable appointment with the Lord, it’s so much easier to walk in the presence of my King for the rest of the day.
Jesus said to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” (Mat. 6:33) and when we apply this command to our prayer lives by seeking Him as our first act of the day, we will often find that every other area of our lives comes into alignment.
Whenever possible, I try to get up early to consecrate the firstfruits of my day to God by spending time in His Word and in prayer. There have definitely been seasons, when it was not possible for me to wake up before my children; times when I’ve been up all night for multiple weeks with a newborn or struggling with a physical issue that impacted my sleep.
Tip No. 3: Get Creative About How to Seek God Amidst the Busy
Leslie Ludy: During those times, I’ve had to come up with creative solutions to make time for prayer. Sometimes I’ve had someone come to the house first thing in the morning and watch the kids while I get the basic things done and have a quiet time. There are other times when Eric steps in and manages the morning routine so I can get that much-needed time in prayer. There are other times when I’ve found time in the afternoon and evening that I can carve out when it’s not going to be interrupted, and someone else is with my kids. So if it’s truly not possible for you to build prayer into your early mornings, or if you’re walking through an unusual season where you’re really not getting enough sleep and you can’t wake up early, then I encourage you to designate a different time during the day where you can have an appointment with the Lord and keep it and where you can guard against interruptions. The key to a disciplined thriving prayer life is regularity, consistency, and commitment.
I also think that evenings are another great time to build prayer and quiet time in – even though it’s not usually what most of us are “in the mood” for at the end of a long day. For me, when I finally get my kids into bed and the house is finally quiet, the thing I feel like doing is unwinding with a good book, or browsing the internet for ideas for household decor or projects. Those things aren’t always bad, but I’ve learned that it’s also a great opportunity for Eric and I to pray together as a couple or for me to have some time alone with the Lord. It’s so wonderful to be able to cast your cares upon Jesus at the end of a day. Maybe there are things that have happened that day that were stressful or concerning; to lay those cares at His feet before you go to bed. If you’re married to take some time to pray with your spouse before the two of you go to bed. This builds deeper intimacy and spiritual likeminded-ness with your spouse; it strengthens your individual relationship with Christ and makes Him the priority of your evening.
Of course, Eric and I also spend time at night reading, talking, doing other things, but when we’re purposeful to make prayer our most important nighttime activity, it impacts both our marriage and our spiritual lives.
Tip No. 4: Ways to Keep Focused on Christ
Leslie Ludy: A lot of women ask me, “Okay, I’ve got the appointment with the Lord, but how do I structure my prayer time? What do I do especially when my thoughts are racing, and I’m busy and distracted? I have the appointment, but it’s hard to focus on Christ.”
There’s really no magic formula for prayer and seeking God, and every prayer time is going to look a little different. Here is a really good rule of thumb. Make it all about Jesus instead of all about you. Meditate on His goodness, His faithfulness, His majesty; praise Him for the things that He has done in your life. Thank Him for His astounding work of redemption in your soul, dwell on His amazing promises, reckon them as fact in your life, no matter what your feelings or your past experience might say.
You could listen to worship songs, read Scripture, read Christ-centered books, listen to Christ-centered sermons – all of these things can help you turn your gaze to Jesus. Now it’s not wrong to tell God your hopes, fears, dreams, and feelings. In fact, as we were saying earlier, it’s important to cast our cares upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7), but it’s also very easy to spend the majority of our quiet time meditating upon how we feel rather than who God is. When we behold the beauty of our King, our own thoughts, feelings, and worries start to fade into the background. As we delight in Him, He grants us the desires of our heart, meaning He places His desires within our heart and fulfills them in His own perfect way.
As we turn our eyes to Him and away from ourselves, He fills us “all in all” as it says in Ephesians 1:23. As you turn your gaze to Jesus, as you meditate on who He is, it’s amazing how those racing thoughts and those concerns and worries can fade into the background.
I also love keeping a prayer journal because it really helps me record the faithfulness of God in my life. When I’m walking through a season where my faith is being tested, it’s so uplifting to read back over my journal throughout the past years or months and clearly see how many times God has come through for me.
Tip No. 5: Finding Tools that Help You Draw Near to Him
Leslie Ludy: I encourage you to spend some time thinking what tools can assist you in having more effective prayer and quiet times. Can you set aside an area of your house that’s quiet and free from distractions? Or download some uplifting worship music or audio Scripture to listen to while you pray and meditate on Him? I love listening to Word of Promise which is an audio version of the Bible; it really brings Scripture to life for me. There are a lot of other audio Bibles that you can download. Starting out a prayer time by playing a few of the Psalms from an audio Bible is a great tool to usher you into the presence of God. So ask God to show you some of the practical things that you can do, not only to guard your daily appointment with Him, but also to make that time as powerful and Christ-centered as possible.
Even if you aren’t able to spend three hours in prayer every day, having that appointment with the Lord – no matter what length of time it is – will really help maintain your intimacy with Jesus Christ. Look for ways to keep His presence with you throughout the day. When you’re driving in your car, can you pray instead of listening to the radio? Can you listen to audio Scripture as you’re doing work around the house? Can you put worship music in your headphones as you’re taking a walk or exercising? Look for ways to incorporate the presence of God in the corners of your life, even during busy seasons.
Here are some things that help me when I’m really, really busy, and it’s hard to be able to spend two consistent hours every day or three consistent hours every day in prayer. I love to listen to audio biographies of great Christians of the faith. There are so many biographies of men and women who have done amazing things for the Kingdom of God, and as I listen to their stories and how God dealt with them in different areas of their life, it is so impacting to me personally, and I can glean from their example. I love listening to audio Scripture throughout my day because even if I don’t have time to spend sitting down reading the Bible for 30-40 minutes, I can hear so much Scripture throughout my day in my car or around my house.
Tip No. 6: Be Guarded About Entertaining Pop-Culture Distractions
Leslie Ludy: Another thing that I would encourage you to do during extra busy times is not to turn to the distractions of the culture when we’re busy and when we’re tired. It’s easy to want to flop down on the couch and put a movie on, instead of cultivating our relationship with God. Movies are not always wrong, but when we haven’t cultivated our relationship with God, and we immediately turn to distractions to refuel and refresh us, then our relationship with God is going to suffer. Be on guard against turing to mindless surfing on the internet, spending hours on Facebook, vegging in front of the movies – all of these things are going to dull you spiritually, especially if you place them above your time with Jesus Christ.
Also, look for ways that you an have edifying conversations with people in your life. If you are ministering to people, if you are a mom with kids, if you are around other people like roommates or co-workers, look for ways that you can turn the conversation to something edifying, life-giving, spiritual, and encouraging! Look at ways that you can decorate your life with Scripture and with Truth. Put important Scriptures on your bathroom mirror, on your bedside table, or on your dashboard in your car, and fill your mind with truth all throughout the day.
Another thing that has really helped me grow spiritually during busy seasons is to have spiritually-rich books that I read right before bed and to read Scripture right before bed. Usually what I do is read a book by someone that has really inspired me (like Amy Carmichael Hudson Taylor, or George Muller) and read what they have written about their own relationship with God and then read something from the Word of God so that as I’m falling asleep at night, truth is what’s filling my mind and my heart.
Leslie Ludy: I hope some of these suggestions have encouraged you for ways that you can grow spiritually and keep Christ in the forefront even during the busy seasons of the holidays and starting a new year.
If you would like to learn more about how to develop a powerful relationship with Christ and a powerful, thriving prayer life, I encourage you to join us for our January online course which is [called] Powerful Praying. There are four weekly video lessons that you can walk through on your own or with a group. There’s a comprehensive course notebook that goes along with this course that has Scripture and discussion questions. This course can infuse your prayer life with a whole new vision and a whole new spiritual strength. Check that out at here and the other many online courses that we have to deepen your relationship with Christ. I pray you have a blessed and Christ-centered week!