The Disciplines of Bible Reading and Prayer
J. I. Packer says in his book, Knowing God, “When he [Jesus] was on earth, he invited ordinary people to company with him; thus they came to know him, and in knowing him to know the father. … The Lord Jesus Christ is now absent from us in body, but spiritually it makes no difference; still we may find and know God through seeking and finding Jesus’ company.” We “seek and find Jesus’ company” when we practice the disciplines of prayer and Bible reading.
Luke commended the Bereans because, “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11b). Daily Bible reading is a discipline we can and should strive for. In regards to prayer, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Every believer should have a daily time and place for prayer and Bible reading. That does not mean that is the only place and time you pray, but if we do not set aside time specifically, we’ll likely find no time most days.
When it comes to Bible reading, I would encourage you to read more than just a single verse and a devotional “thought for the day.” That is the spiritual equivalent of a donut and coffee for breakfast. It may give you a boost in the morning, but it is not very filling or nourishing. In the resources section of this website, we have a few Bible reading plans. I like the one-year plan and checklist, myself. You can find numerous others online and in study Bibles. They even make Bibles set up in one-year reading plans. Just pick one. Yes, you could randomly wander from book to book, but if you do, you'll tend to skip books like Numbers and Joel. They seem dull at first, but you need to go those places too. There are nuggets of gold in there, I guarantee it.
You should likewise have a plan for your scheduled prayer time. This can be as simple as having a prayer list. If your prayer list gets too long after a while, you may need to organize it. I use a app on my phone to put my prayer list in categories and assign each item a frequency (daily, weekly etc.) and sometimes a specific day. For example, I pray for each member of my small group on Tuesday morning. I pray for 4 of the 20 pastors the church sponsors in India on each weekday, so by the end of the week, I have prayed for all of them.
You should also write down answers to prayer so you can praise God for them. Some folks do this by keeping a prayer journal. I admit that is something I have never been very consistent with. I start them, but they never last very long.
Finally, you also need to slow down. Many days, it will seem all you can do is breeze through a chapter and hurry down your prayer list before you have to run out the door to work. But you need to take time to meditate on what you read. Packer defines it this way: “Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.”
I like to aid my meditation by reading the same set of verses in more than one of the Bible translations that sit beside my desk. Sometimes I like to read the same passage over and over on multiple days until it sinks in. I call this marinating in it, because it begins to penetrate more the longer you soak in it.
Make a plan that works for you. Whatever time you set aside, if you make it a habit, after a while you will want to make it longer. Jesus wants to spend time with you. The more you do, the better you will get to know him.