As pastors, our life-blood, our power, and our strength come from the time we spend with God. But if you’ve been in ministry for more than a few minutes, you may have noticed that as a pastor, spending time with God can feel like yet another task on the to-do list.
There’s a tension here — because something that used to feel like an intimate, refueling time with your Creator has now become a part of your job description.
This can sometimes threaten to steal the peace, rest, and connection it once had.
There’s also this incredible responsibility. We’re not just reading the Bible for ourselves anymore. We’re reading to study for our sermons or so we have an answer ready whenever someone needs a word from the Lord. Our prayer time isn’t just about our relationship with God anymore; it’s about filling up to pour back out.
So what do we do as pastors to have fulfilling quiet time with God, without it becoming another task on our to-do list?
Here are some tips that have worked for me.
1. Change locations
If you find yourself in a rut, try switching locations for your quiet time with God. Go outside instead of staying in your favorite chair. Go for a walk or to a new coffee shop. Sometimes switching locations is just what you need to put you in a new frame of mind to spend some good, quality time with God.
2. Read a book to quiet your mind
When I’m about to jump into a time of reading the Bible or praying, the biggest thing that trips me up is my lack of focus. Even first thing in the morning, my mind starts to wake up and think about all the things I need to do that day. Sometimes we need a segue into a quiet time, something to calm our minds and move our thoughts into a quieter place. I find that reading a book is helpful.
Something that’s either peaceful or positive or about God or worship usually helps me get on track. Then, when I move into studying my Bible or prayer, my mind has been coaxed into a quieter place and is ready to focus.
3. Go for a drive
Another thing that hampers my time with God are distractions. There’s always something to do — emails that need to be answered, calls that need to be returned, someone who needs help with something. And so often what I need to focus and have quality time with God is to get away from the distractions. The best place for me to do this is in the car. When I really need time with God, I like to go for a drive, letting the sounds of the car and the familiarity of the road sooth me into a place where I’m ready to talk, or pray, or listen for what God might be trying to tell me.
It’s also a great place for prayer. With nobody there to hear you but God and your steering wheel, you’re able to be honest in your prayers in a way you aren’t when there are people around.
4. Study for yourself – not just for other people
As a pastor, it’s hard to read the Bible for yourself.
I read a passage and think of all the people who need to hear it, or I read a chapter and think of the five sermons I could preach on that small section. Instead of reading and studying only to regurgitate that information immediately, I need some time where the studying is just for me. I need to read and apply it to my own life or let the words sit in my soul for a while before I pass them off to someone else. This is what fills me up the most. I think it’ll do the same for you.
Spending time with God is how we fill up, how we refuel, and how we have the strength, power, and wisdom to be good pastors. Spending time with God is not only crucial for our church congregation, it’s also crucial for us. So let’s take some time today, and tomorrow, and even the next day to invest in our own time with God, instead of just for the sake of other people.
They’ll benefit from our investment, and so will we.
photo: Elizabeth Spencer, Creative Commons