One of the biggest scams Satan has running is the lie that reading the Bible is a chore.
The world, the flesh, and the devil himself muster their collective energies to deceive us into orienting on God’s word as some mere duty, rather than receiving it as the delight it is. We’re prone to take one of the single greatest gifts available to us and treat it as a life-sucking obligation rather than a life-giving opportunity.
“Don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s any virtue in making Bible time as unpleasant as possible.”
We live in a day in which the very voice of God himself in the Scriptures is more readily available than ever before — in printed copies, in a rich plethora of translations and study Bibles, and in countless applications on computers we carry and smartphones we can tuck into our pockets. Yet we’re so prone to ignore and neglect his voice, and treat ourselves to just about anything else in its place.
One of the most important actions we can take on any given day is to fight through the fog, against Satan’s great deception, and get our souls within earshot of God’s word. Cultivating the daily habit of enjoying “time alone with God” in the Scriptures feeds our souls and gives us our bearings for the rough and tumble of everyday life, whatever your vocation and slate of family, church, and community responsibilities.
How to Grow a Habit
But what goes into developing a solid, reliable habit? What steps can we take, apart from raw willpower, to foster the instinct and enflame the desire to hear from God daily in his inspired Book? Don’t fool yourself that there’s any virtue in making Bible time as unpleasant as possible. Mere duty will not suffice for long-term motivation or biblical obedience.
In seeking to set aside time to open the Bible and hear God speak, we cannot be content with just checking boxes and crossing the first item off the day’s to-do list. Rather, we can take little steps, that go a long way, to make our time in God’s word be among the most anticipated and delight-filled moments of each day.
I’ve found it revolutionary over the years to recognize and own daily “time alone with God” as an opportunity to treat myself. God’s offer to us to hear his voice is not a call to austerity, but the invitation of Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.”
Consider what small supplemental steps you can take to cultivate eagerness and receptiveness to God’s word — to develop the mentality that a regular season of Bible intake and prayer is a joy to anticipate, a genuine chance to treat yourself in the best of senses.
First, treat yourself to an earlier bedtime. The night before affects the next morning more than we often recognize. Even just half an hour earlier can make a big difference. Earlier to bed enables you to rise earlier in the morning, without being tired, to treat yourself to a more unhurried time of Bible intake and prayer. And the earlier you rise, the fewer distractions you will encounter. More people are still asleep. You’ll find less pressure to move into other activities.
“God’s offer to receive his word is not a call to austerity, but an invitation to feast.”
If you’ve never been a morning person, and have tried wedging in devotional time later in the day, I’d challenge you to give mornings a genuine try with a “treat yourself” mentality. Perhaps these ideas below will make a difference. God does not mandate that we have morning devotions — he doesn’t even command a daily “quiet time” — but he does offer his own self to us in his word, and the overwhelming testimony of God’s people throughout history has been that the first moments of the day are both fitting and practically beneficial for prioritizing the voice of first importance.
Treat yourself to a setting you enjoy, and can easily access. Maybe it’s a comfy chair or the kitchen table or nearby coffee shop. For me, it can be any big, clear surface — all the better when facing a window with a nice view. Through the winter, it’s my desk in the basement, with natural light streaming in from the egress window above. It gets cold down there, so I treat myself to warm slippers and a small space heater under the desk. Whatever your setting, it can help to don comfortable clothes.
After a long Minnesota winter, my favorite spot in the summer becomes our front porch, which faces east, with the golden solstice sun cresting the tree line. I know people who prefer to walk, rather than sit, as they hold a Bible, or listen to an audio version. Find your contexts that inspire your soul to focus on God and gladly receive his word.
Treat yourself to good smells. This may seem silly and superfluous to some, but for others, good smells can go a long way. The expense of lighting candles or diffusing fragrant oils can add up over time, but Jesus himself applauded lavishness when expended toward appreciating him. Not only did Jesus commend Mary for choosing “the good portion” by sitting at his feet (Luke 10:38–42), but he also defended her lavishness when his disciples accused her of wasting money to anoint those same feet (John 12:3–8).
“Money invested in hearing from God is money well spent.”
Instead of treating yourself to nice restaurants, expensive entertainment, and new clothes, consider reallocating some of those resources to treat yourself to something of far greater importance: time alone with God. Perhaps that includes candles or furniture or something warm to drink. The principle is that, within reason, money invested in hearing from God is money well spent.
Treat yourself to background music — or none. Some prefer silence; others, gospel choruses or hymns. Perhaps, like me, you find it’s not the same sound every day — sometimes silence, other times an epic Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
Monitor how music affects your Bible intake. Music is powerful — and can be a help or hindrance. Background music for Bible reading is one thing. Songs with words might distract your reading. But consider using hymns and choruses, after reading, to sing to God in a spirit of worship.
Finally, treat yourself to prayer, which connects us to one of the most mind-boggling realities in the universe: the open ear of God. God not only speaks to us in his word, but he also gives us access to himself through his Son. He wants to hear from us.
Instead of jumping into prayer lists, or parroting the same old requests, treat yourself to a more relational engagement with God. Don’t ignore what he’s just said to you in the Bible and awkwardly change the subject, but respond in prayer with his word in view. Pray his word, and that he would do in your heart and life what his word commands and inspires. And pray it for your family and friends and coworkers and neighbors.