Beware of the Drying Out Effect of Academics

In John 5:39, 40, Jesus rebukes the first century religious leaders in Jerusalem saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is these that bear witness of me and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life.”  These religious leaders made a mistake similar to one that is frequently (and often unconsciously) made by  many today, failing to use the Scriptures primarily to point us to Jesus that we may have life.

While academic study of the Bible is interesting to some, it is not the source of spiritual life and health.  This comes only when we follow the direction of the Scriptures into relationship with Jesus.  As we see God’s likeness and character in the passages of Scripture and reach out to God in prayer, our resulting relationship to Jesus refreshes us spiritually.  As Jesus promises in John 7:38, “From [your] innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”

The academic study itself does not dry us out spiritually.  It is in essence spiritual neutral.  The drying out comes when academic study replaces the pursuit of relationship with Jesus and the resultant filling of the Holy Spirit.

Do not be fooled into thinking that an academic study of the Bible will bring you into relationship with Jesus.  Such study can be much like study of any other book.  It is only when we enter into relationship with Jesus that we gain the life gaining benefit of interacting with God’s word.

There are some parallels between studying the Scriptures (special revelation) and studying nature (i.e., the creation–the general revelation).  God has disclosed himself through His creation as well as through the Scriptures.  Some  can study the creation and just gain scientific information. Others will study and through the magnificence of the creation begin to recognize the glory of the Creator.  The handiwork of creation thus is part of the road map God has left to bring people into fellowship with Himself.

Do not just read the road map, take the journey and enter into continuous relationship with our creator.


Prayer that flows from the inspiration of Scripture

Have you ever been involved in a prayer meeting or a personal time of prayer that seemed flat?  Has prayer ever seemed tedious or dry?  To refresh your times in prayer, reconsider your motivation and your organization for prayer.

There are many ways to motivate and organize our prayers.  Some make lists of needs and requests and pray through the entries on the list.  Others are motivated by felt needs, their own or others, and use that as motivation and impetus to pray.

Daniel Henderson in his book, “Transforming Prayer:  How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face”, touts what he calls “Worship-Based Prayer”.  According to Daniel (p. 27), “Worship-based prayer seeks the face of God before the hand of God.   God’s hand is the blessing of what He does.  God’s face is the essence of who He is.”

One practical way of seeking God’s face and then seeking God’s hand is to have your prayer flow from the inspiration of Scripture.  Read a passage in the Bible, and then let your prayers flow from what the passage says about God.  Rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and empower your prayers.

For example, suppose you read the following passage in 2 Timothy 2:1-2:  “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

After reading and meditating on this passage you may be inspired to pray for your own children, or perhaps others on whom you have a mentoring relationship.  You may think of those who are in particular need of God’s grace and pray for them.  You may feel motivation to pray for those who you have witnessed to and who need salvation.   You may be inspired to pray for the leaders in your church who are raising up the next generation of leaders.

As you reflect on the truth of God, let the truth inspire your prayers.  When your prayers spring from God’s Word and His Holy Spirit, you can have assurance that your prayers are according to His will.  You will experience increased confidence and power in prayer.

Establishing a Quiet Time Habit

A daily time of Bible reading and prayer is the most effective way to develop and maintain a deep relationship with the Lord.  Establishing this habit builds behavioral momentum that lessens the effort required to go deeper with the Lord.

One key to starting and maintaining a habit is to start with a manageable commitment.  The less daily investment required, the easier it is to establish a habit.

Pick a time and place that will minimize your hardship.  Many find it easiest to have a quiet time the first thing in the morning, before breakfast.  If you have trouble going to sleep, you may find it very soothing to spend time with God right before bed.  Perhaps, noon time is the best time for you.  If you are unsure, you can try out some options to see which is  best for you.

Also, if you start with something that you enjoy, this greatly increases the likelihood that you will be able to establish your quiet time as a daily habit. If you love to read, perhaps you might initially start with a daily Bible reading program.  Start in a book that is easy and fun to read.  Many start reading in the gospels.  These are stories about Jesus.  If you want to branch out, perhaps begin to follow a daily Bible reading guide that may have you reading a little in the New Testament and a little in the Old Testament each day.

I recommend not starting a Bible reading habit in the Old Testament.  Particularly do not start with Genesis and read through the Old Testament first.  Many a good intentioned reading program died an untimely death in the books of Leviticus and Numbers (if they lasted that long).  Start with the easy to read books of the Bible first.  There will be plenty of time for the more difficult to read books after you have firmly established your reading habits.  Once you have established your daily Bible reading habit, ten to fifteen minutes of daily Bible reading is all it takes for some people to read through the entire Bible in a year.

If you are not a reader, you can be creative about other ways to start your daily quiet time.   Perhaps you might read a short prepared devotion such as those available from the Our Daily Bread ministry (  If you love to walk, perhaps you may read just one or two Bible verses, and then take a walk and pray to the Lord.  If you love to sing, perhaps your daily quiet time will have a singing component.

However you start, keep the daily time commitment to a level that is easily manageable within your schedule.  Also, make every effort not to miss a day.  If you do miss a day, no need to double up.  Just carry on the next day.

Once your habit is well established (for some this might take a few months, others one or more years), you can begin to use the momentum you have established to widen and deepen your quiet time.  If you started with only Bible reading, add a few minutes of prayer.  If you started with a daily prayer time, add a reading component.  And so on.

As time goes by you might even want to add additional daily commitments.  If increasing time spent in the morning seems overwhelming, perhaps you might start the day with some Bible reading and then take a prayer walk at lunch time.  Perhaps you might take a prayer walk first thing in the morning and then read a chapter or two in the Bible at night to prepare you  for sleep.  Be creative. Look for a quiet time schedule that fits you, fits your other commitments and will be a pleasure to maintain.

Get started today.  You will find that as you seek God and spend time with Him, He will greatly reward you.  As you press in, you will discover the often neglected treasure of a close personal walk with the Lord.  It will more than repay you for establishing a regular Quiet time with God.

The importance of a daily quiet time

Of all the habits we establish, there is no habit more important to a vibrant Christian life than the habit of daily meeting with the Lord through Bible reading and prayer.  If you develop and keep this habit, you are all but guaranteed a life of joy and close association with the Lord.  If you fail to establish this habit, you are in all likelihood resigning yourself to a roller coaster life, where you will often find yourself feeling distant from God and others.

The Christian life is in essence a relationship.  A relationship requires time and commitment.  Establishing a habit is the easiest way to assure that you are investing sufficient time into your relationship with God.

When we establish the habit of meeting with the Lord every day, our relationship with the Lord has a momentum that takes a minimum effort to maintain.  Yes, it often takes concerted effort to get the habit of a quiet time started, but once started the momentum of a habit builds on the previous investment of time.  Then, there is much less effort required to maintain forward motion.

Those without a habit of daily meeting with the Lord have to invest energy and momentum every time they meet with the Lord.  This new investment of energy required for every meeting with the Lord will tend to wear down our willingness to make the effort.  It takes more will power than most of us are gifted with.  The result is we take time for the Lord only in extraordinary circumstances, such as when circumstances make us so desperate for help that it overwhelms are inertia in spiritual matters or when others pull us into their spiritual activities.

But once we establish the momentum of a daily quiet time, we can use the momentum from our habit to minimize the additional energy required to maintain a walk with the Lord.

Other habits we may establish, such as going regularly to church or attending a small group, can be immensely beneficial in our Christian life.  But nothing enriches and deepens our friendship with God as much as daily meeting with Him in a quiet time of Bible reading and prayer.

The couple that prays together…

During the over twenty-three years of our married life, Frances and I have made it our routine to pray together daily.  We usually start by discussing anything significant we believe needs prayer.  Then we pray.

These regular times of prayer have been the cornerstone of our marriage.  Here are some benefits we have experienced.

  • The communication has drawn us closer as a couple.
  • The prayer time has given us a common activity to share.
  • It is a pleasure to pray with someone you love.
  • It has broadened our relationship by keeping us other centered.
  • It has increased transparency in our marriage.
  • We have been able to keep up with the events that each of us regard as significant.
  • It has kept us engaged with the lives of our family and friends.
  • It has brought us closer to God.
  • It has helped us both to establish and keep a daily habit of prayer.
  • It gives us an opportunity to praise God.
  • It is a safe environment to confess sins to God.

If you and your spouse desire to start or maintain a regular time of prayer, here are some tips that may help you get started and keep on.

  • Schedule a daily time that is  convenient for both of you.  What often works is to pray first thing in the morning or last thing at night.   Find a time and place that minimizes distractions.
  • Start small.  When starting a new habit, it is helpful to limit the effort invested.  Five minutes sharing and five minutes praying is probably plenty for most couples.  Resist (especially at first) making the time long and therefore burdensome.  The shorter and more pleasant the time, the more each will be attracted to repeat it.
  • Limit the sharing time to genuine prayer requests.  Don’t use this as a gossip time.
  • Work to make sure that the time you spend sharing is less than the time you spend praying.
  • Handle your conflict at another time.  If there is a conflict, handling the conflict before (preferable) or after your prayer time keeps your prayer time from becoming a war zone.
  •   Pray in short bursts.  Take turns.  Be careful not to drone on.  If you have a lot to pray, just pray a part of your prayer.  After your spouse prays, you can take up your prayer again.  Or better yet, if you have a lot to pray about, pray at another time when you are alone.
  • Don’t use the prayer time to preach at your spouse.  Use it to connect with the Lord.
  •  Keep at it.  At the beginning, prayer and even sharing, may seem burdensome to one or both parties.  But if you persevere through these times you will reap a tremendous reward that will include closeness to your spouse and to your Lord.

If you practice daily prayer with your spouse, you will prove like many before you that the couple that prays together stays together.

Defeating the three enemies of prayer

A desire to meet daily with the Lord in prayer is not always sufficient in itself to guarantee regular vibrant prayer.  To establish a rewarding daily encounter with the Lord, the enemies of prayer must be overcome.

According to J. Oswald Sanders, general director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship in the 1950s and 1960s, there are three enemies of prayer.

The first enemy is the lack of a regularly scheduled time of prayer.  Without scheduling prayer, it tends to get pushed off and often does not happen.  Sanders scheduled his prayer time right away when he arose.  Before eating breakfast he would pray.  He did this, without exception, through a great many years.

The second enemy of prayer is drowsiness.  If one were to rise up early in the morning, then kneel by his bed, put his head down and begin praying, in many cases drowsiness will overwhelm prayer.   To overcome this enemy, Sanders would pace as he prayed.  He testified to never falling asleep when he was pacing.  If he were inside, he would pace back and forth in his room.  If he were outside, he might walk a preselected course.  This walking had the added bonus of giving him exercise while he prayed.

The third enemy of prayer is mind wandering.  It is easy to start to pray and then have your thoughts drift to chewing over past events or planning future events of the day.  Sanders found that praying out loud, in an audible voice, helped him focus his prayers.  This is my biggest struggle in prayer.  In my prayer time I find that when I fall silent, my mind drifts.  Praying out loud helps to refocus and re-energize my prayers.

If you struggle with not having a regular time to pray, drowsiness, or mind wandering it may be time to use Sanders strategies to defeat these enemies of prayer.


Dinner with Jesus


There is no better way to develop and maintain a close friendship than to share meals together.  Jesus offers this level of relationship to every one of his followers.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with me.”   Rev. 3:20.    The word “stand” is in the perfect tense.  This indicates the Lord has taken a stand by your door and is available at any time to come in to have the closeness to you that dining with a friend can bring.

Invite Him in through talking to Him in prayer.  Know His thoughts by reading the Bible.  Just a few minutes a day will allow you to develop a close friendship with the God who made you and loves you.