How to be present with God

Finding motivation to read the bible daily

By Leziga Barikor

In Christian faith circles it seems the constant question or area of spiritual growth people are working towards is how to be consistent in reading the bible. It is a spiritual discipline we feel like we should be doing it, but by the numbers and personal anecdotes it just isn’t happening the way we’d like. But creating a habit of bible reading won’t happen if we approach it like reading any other type of book. I’ve gone through periods of consistent reading and inconsistent reading, and what I’ve found to be most helpful is to not approach the bible as something you read alone but as a time of fellowship with God. Creating that fellowship time isn’t obvious or natural to us, so here is my method to creating a bible reading habit you won’t easily break.

To be alone with God

In Genesis we get the most beautiful and tranquil picture of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and it’s an idea repeated in Psalm 23 as David describes God as leading him beside quiet waters. From these passages, we can gather that before you can even begin to effectively build in a bible reading habit you need to carve out uninterrupted time.

Between appointments, at the end of you lunch break and other short transitional periods aren’t usually going to be the best times especially if you know these fluctuate day to day. You can’t be in a hurry while trying to be present with God. Mornings are the best time I would recommend, but you know your schedule and body best. Maybe not right at 5 a.m., but at 7 a.m. you can have free time and be a functioning person. Nighttime routines and patterns also need to be adjusted to make mornings be effective and productive.

Next you need to consider your environment. Does it resonate with the idea of quiet waters and green pastures? You don’t need to hike out to the countryside, but finding a space maybe in your bedroom, the kitchen counter, your back porch or some place else where you can sit comfortably for a while and not be distracted is key.

Lastly, you need to start with silence. This is the most awkward and difficult step towards being more present with God. But it’s important because we know God is already with us. The real issue is we live so utterly unaware of his presence throughout the “normal” every day functions of our life that aren’t spent in church. The promise Jesus made to be with us always in Matthew 28:20 is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).

As A. W. Tozer writes, “The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition” (The Pursuit of God). He also writes that our souls have a “conscious personal awareness” of God. So taking time to sit in silence helps us catch up to what our souls are already aware of daily.

In Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS), he describes in detail his method for spending time with God which he calls a Daily Office. He builds this into his schedule for multiple times in one day which is a super cool commitment, but also a lot at once if you’re trying to just start staying consistent for at least once a day. He incorporates a short mindfulness meditation before silence. So pausing, taking deep breaths and being attentive to his environment.

I think mindfulness also helps you focus your attention before going to God with that essential step of silence. As Scazzero translates in his book, the still small voice Elijah heard in the cave in 1 Kings 19:12 is better described as silence heard from God. One way to incorporate that quiet meditative time, is start with an open ended prayer for God to make his presence known to you. As simple as that one request, or perhaps phrasing it in a declaration “God you are here,” and let that be your only words of prayer as you sit in silence breaking only to repeat it if your mind starts to wander.

Reading the Word of God

The bible in its entirety is worthy of reading, but the next problem I think people can run into with being consistent is not knowing where to start or how to read. There are so many methods and resources out there, but what is most important is that you have a plan and stick to it.

I know for me in times when I was able to be most consistent, I had a specific plan or idea of what I was going to be studying. I usually prefer depending on the book to take it one chapter at a time, and my bible plan was to finish reading this one certain book. People often jump right in with Genesis, and I honestly love it and find the histories to be really interesting. But sometime that can get to be too much and confusing for people who don’t have a lot of background knowledge or a reference bible to easily tie in new testament themes.

Reading anything in the bible the most important thing to remember is that it is ultimately God’s story and each book while having global and eternal implications were written for a specific people for a specific time and place. The Bible Project website and app Read Scripture is really helpful for explaining the extra context that isn’t obvious to modern day readers.

Remembering the context and the fact that it is God’s revelation of himself to humans is helpful, but it is also good to remind or acknowledge for yourself that you’re reading in light of your present circumstances and life experiences. The book EHS is really helpful for getting you to realize ways your life experiences are affecting the way you read the bible and interact with God.

An easy example I think a lot of people can relate to are the passages where we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:15). It’s easy for me to think of that as just trying to be perfect and then go into the mindset of comparing myself to others who I consider to be better at certain things than me. But that’s a horizontal perspective, whereas the scripture is actually calling us to look up to God and his standard for holiness. And before I get completely disheartened, that causes me to remember God’s grace for all the ways I fall short of his standards.

Lastly, it is okay to try different studies from devotional books or other blogs, but before you switch reading plans make up your mind. For anyone who just likes reading in general or watching TV on streaming services, you may have run into that weird lull where you end up not watching or reading anything for a while because you don’t know where to go next. Don’t let that happen with your bible study time, figure out what you’re going to study next while you’re still in the middle of your current study. The transition will be smoother and you avoid breaking the habit.

Decide who you are going to be

This last main step for creating consistent bible time may be a little confusing, but it is the most important step for building any habit. You need to take ownership of it, whether that means calling your time in the bible something more personal to you than “bible time,” “quiet time” or “God time.” A lot of those phrases exists within the American Christian culture, but they don’t say much about your personal faith journey.

People with hobbies define themselves by them all the time. From runner’s clubs to different entertainment fandoms, people tie their best and worst habits to the identities. Like habits they may want to break, such as thinking and saying you’re a person who always runs late. For people who identify as Christians in America, that means a lot of different things and interestingly enough doesn’t always reflect lives much different from their self identified secular counterparts. Whatever your denomination is, if you want your personal faith journey to include bible reading that needs to come out of the identity God has given you as his child.

James Clear wrote is his bestselling secular novel Atomic Habits, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

So with each day that you get up early and decide to spend time with God, you are making a vote towards your identity as a follower of Jesus. Or a child of God (John 1:12), or a redeemed woman once caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), or a formerly blind beggar (John 9) or a cripple now seated at the table of the king (2 Sam 9). Wherever your faith journey has brought you from, God has found you here and longs to walk with you in the cool of the day. It is only by his mercy and grace that we’re invited at all, so there’s nothing to fear. He’s with you at every step.

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