The insistent tone of my cell phone’s timer carried through floorboards to our basement schoolroom–another call to prayer unanswered.
I sighed, turned the page, and continued with my sixth-grader in a lesson on fractions.
I had been reading about the historical practice of praying the hours, setting aside intentional moments throughout the day at specific times to stop everything and pray.
Believers long ago listened to the sounding of bells to remind them to pray.
Setting a cell phone timer.
It seemed like the perfect solution for a more intentional prayer life..
Why, then, did my timer always seem to sound when I was in the middle of an un-interruptible task?
- Dinner preparation on a ball game night.
- A fervent untangling of numerators and denominators.
- An intense disciplinary moment.
The reminder was impractical for that season, but it was an important step on my journey toward a more mindful use of my minutes in building my relationship with God.
I began to realize that regular prayer, immersion in the Words of Scripture, meditating on its truth, and the constant recognition that God is part of the entire day are not unattainable goals set aside for “advanced” Christians.
These practices can be woven into ordinary moments of our daily lives, helping us build a meaningful relationship with God.
Here are five things I’ve learned on my own journey of inviting holiness into my everyday habits; I hope these simple strategies will encourage your faith and help you to grow.
Holiness is Breathing our Prayers
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. – Isaiah 30:18
Isaiah 30:18 portrays God’s longing for communion with His children, although not from any lack on His part. Purely out of grace, He “waits on high” to have compassion on us, to lavish us with His unwavering attention.
Normal conversation involves a comfortable back and forth between two people, and talking with God is no different.
But we must be willing to start the conversation!
Hanging laundry on the clothesline, waiting in the parking lot for my kids, standing at the kitchen sink – all of these moments are an opportunity for prayer.
Just as the next breath that keeps me alive requires a release of the air in my lungs, prayer, like breathing, requires a release.
Focused attention on God through moments of prayer helps release us from our position at the center of the universe.
It reminds me who is in control, and how much I need to commune with my Savior.
Holiness is Taking Small Daily Doses of Truth
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” – Psalm 119:18
When the psalmist prayed for focused attention and a receptive heart, he was not preparing for a legalistic, mechanical quiet time.
He was coming to the Bible in recognition of his need and reaching out to the Great Physician for a prescription to fill that emptiness.
Scripture is our daily dose of Truth.
When I fail to consult with biblical wisdom, my judgment and emotions inevitably go off the rails.
I’ve learned that a small daily dose of God’s Word, read with focused attention, is better than a huge gulp, quickly forgotten.
When my brain is especially tired, I read aloud, allowing the truth to reach my ears and to linger on my tongue.
Holiness is Viewing Everything As a Gift
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – I Thessalonians 5:18
We are immersed in a culture that encourages us to inflate our wants until they take on the dimensions of a need.
Reading about the Church fathers and their vows of poverty and humility challenges my sense of entitlement to convenience and comfort.
Viewing my snug and secure surroundings, I know in my heart that everything is a gift from God.
Lingering on this truth changes the way I see everything:
The turkey in my freezer is best used to serve the missionary family with three kids who are visiting in my church and need a place to relax and enjoy Sunday dinner.
The hour on Tuesday morning when I’d usually be “accomplishing something” becomes a gift, offered to a friend who needs a listening ear.
The heartbreaking loss that catches me off guard is also a gift that God uses to break me open to dazzling grace in the midst of disappointment.
Holiness is Learning to Seize the Quiet
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” – Psalm 131:2
The practice of Lectio Divina dates back to the 5th century as one of the primary ways for Christians to meditate on Scripture.
It begins with reading (Lectio in Latin) followed by silence (Silencio) and reflection (Meditatio).
Looking for tiny pockets of quiet in my day reminds me that the listening life has a place even in my noisy world.
Phone calls, emails, schedules, and the endless chatter inside my own skull are all noise.
Silence interrupts the noise for a brief time of focus on eternal truth.
One of the best times I’ve learned to practice this is right after I turn out the lamp on my nightstand.
Closing my eyes, I begin to review the day, consciously rehearsing the fact of God’s presence within each event and saying “thank you” when I become aware of a gift of His grace.
Then, if I’m still awake, I practice handing over the details of the next day to the God who listens.
Holiness is Ensuring God Is Glorified in Everything
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10
When my crew gathers around the dining room table for tacos and birthday cake, the chaos does not lend itself to monastic style contemplation of the goodness of God—and yet, God is there, too.
In his book “Life Together”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer also reminded his readers that “without the burden and labor of the day, prayer is not prayer, and without prayer, work is not work.”
Our times of prayer remind us that life is not simply about work, while our work reminds us that life is not simply about prayer.
To our great surprise, we see that God who waits on high to have compassion on us and longs to be gracious to us. He made our bodies and our spirits with a need for all these things.
Thus, when I honor my body by getting sufficient rest and by planning healthful menus for my family, God is there.
When I walk the dog and give thanks for the vast blue sky and the bracing wind in my face, God is there.
When I am ironing the collar of a shirt and folding my son’s jeans still warm from the dryer, God is there.
By turning our attention purposefully toward God in the midst of our ordinary days, we demolish the wall between sacred and secular.
What Does Holiness Look Like for You?
In the framework of a living and vibrant relationship, spiritual disciplines are not impersonal.
You can be an active participant in your own spiritual formation and follow hard after Jesus while firmly embedded in 21st-century life.
Consider the following:
- How would your prayer life be changed if you began to view it as a breathing-out of words to the One who knows you fully and loves you extravagantly?
- What if your Bible reading were transformed from a dreary discipline to a daily infusion of Truth, the completion of a circle of communication that your spiritual life depends upon?
- Can you envision your heart set free to receive whatever comes to you each day as a gift, with peace and the firm conviction that God is the Giver?
Show up every day in the quiet of God’s unwavering attention and remember and rejoice that God is present.
He longs to meet you in the ordinary moments of your life.
This post first appeared at Living By Design.
If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.
I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.