This summer, I spent two months working for a Christian nonprofit on the coast of sunny South Florida. There, it was not hard to feel God’s presence. Every person I worked with had a close relationship with Jesus, setting strong examples of what it means to put God first. Every week we prayed for each other in the office, every other week we met for an afternoon worship service. I found a thriving church and went to three Bible studies a week. Surrounded by other believers, doing work that directly supported sharing Jesus with others, all in a stunningly beautiful corner of Creation, I was mindful of God with me at almost every moment.
But then the summer ended, and I came home. Home to the not-so-thrilling suburb I grew up in, to the freelancing work I’ve had for years, to the tedium of chores and cooking and bills and work that often doesn’t seem to relate to my faith.
Meals, commutes, work, homework, laundry, relationships. These are the things that make up our everyday life. How do we invite God in, building habits that put him first? Here are some ideas, drawn from the examples of Christians seeking the same God in the midst of their very different lives.
A QUIET PLACE
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. –Mark 1:35-37
Abbie is a teenager who just graduated from high school and is gearing up for her freshman year of college. Amidst the rush of classes and homework, sports and friendships, she creates time alone with God in a quiet corner of her room. “Setting time aside to be alone and quiet, just God and me, gives me the foundation of peace I need,” she said.
When cultivating a habit of spending time with God, it can help to establish a certain meeting place for your time alone with him. Practice meeting God in that place on a regular basis, and soon it will become your own sacred space. Like when you enter a gym and you feel ready to work out, or when you step into your favorite restaurant and you feel ready to eat a good meal, when you step into that place, you will train yourself to be ready to pursue God and be filled by his presence and Word.
…but his delight is on the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.—Psalm 1:2
Kathleen is an elementary schoolteacher who spends the majority of her workdays corralling and teaching 29 high-energy second graders, getting to her classroom before the school day starts, and staying after her last student leaves to correct homework and prepare lesson plans for the next day. She works well beyond the regular 40 hours a week with an ever-changing, often exhausting schedule.
Even so, she rises early in the morning to read the Bible and pray before getting ready to teach. “The morning is when my mind is most fresh, and by making studying the Bible the first thing I do during the day, it reminds me that following God is more important to me than anything else I do.” For many people, in the morning, the mind is fresh from a good night’s sleep and relatively undistracted from the demands of the day. For others, the evening after dinner can be the best time to really dive deep into studying the Bible. And even in those times when you feel your attention drifting, when you can’t keep from yawning in the morning or struggle to keep your eyes open at night, try reading through a few Psalms to still focus your weary mind on the Lord, the source of rest.
Those who work or attend school outside the home have a valuable piece of time to spend with the Lord in your daily commute. Case in point: Glen works for a software company in a demanding position that requires him to work early mornings, drive across town on an hour-long commute, and work into the evenings and weekends, making consistent time with God extremely difficult. He spends the hours of his commute praying out loud for the day ahead and for the people in his life, sings praise songs, listens to an audio Bible, and recites Bible passages he has memorized.
But what about those of us who don’t have a regular schedule? What about those who work night shifts or long days from home, or parents who never rest from caring for their children?
Holly is a paramedic working by night on an ambulance in the Portland metro area. She works long 12-hour shifts for four days straight, then has four days off before heading back again for her long work nights. “Prayer and Bible reading are so easily neglected,” she said. “It took several years for me to establish a rhythm within the daily flux of inconsistent sleep schedules and the pressures of a high-stress job.”
Holly committed to meeting with God “first thing” when she wakes up. “This is a habit I can keep if I’m getting up at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.” she said. “The first voice I want to hear in the morning is the most important Voice.” While routines can help, Holly points out that getting to know God by spending time with him is more important than any established schedule: “Whether I have only ten minutes or a whole hour before I start my day, I have focused my heart on what really matters.”
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of Christ Jesus in you.”—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
God is not just present in our quiet times alone with him. He is present when we shower, eat breakfast, pack up for the day. He is present when stay-at-home parents can’t seem to find a moment of quiet amidst the chores, meals, and caring for kids. He is present during work meetings and lunch breaks. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from your present?” asks David in Psalm 139:7. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Certainly then, wherever the rush of our every day takes us, God is there.
How can we keep this perspective when life grows challenging or—sometimes worse—tedious?
One way is to set reminders for ourselves throughout the day, like signposts reminding us to stay on the path of walking through life with God. Put sticky notes holding Bible verses or the names of people to pray for on your bathroom mirror, in the kitchen, on the dashboard of your car. Set reminders on your phone periodically through the day with encouraging verses like Romans 8:38-39 or verses that inspire and challenge like Philippians 4:8. Reminders can also come in the form of accountability from trusted friends as you grow closer to God.
You can also go a step further by incorporating prayer and God’s Word into the very fabric of your everyday life. Sister Makrina, a Benedictine nun, recommends choosing one or two things you encounter each day to remind of you the Lord. For example, if you eat a lot of apples, train yourself to thank God or pray for someone every time you bite into an apple. When you wash your hands, let the running water remind you that Jesus is the true “living water”—the only thing that truly satisfies us. When you first step into your job for the day—whether at an office desk, a sales counter, or somewhere else entirely—make it a habit to dedicate your coming work to God. This practice has changed the way Caleb, a graduate student studying physics, lives out his faith. He is faced with an ever-changing schedule and hours of tedious work alone, but “eventually, the everyday things you encounter in life—from a tree you pass on your daily walk to your desktop screensaver—become symbols of God’s truths,” he said.
And with this comes one of the most rewarding and encouraging parts of pursuing prayer, Scripture reading, and time alone with God: every time we rest alone with God’s presence, as we build regular time with him throughout our days, we learn and notice more the countless ways his love and goodness is already at work in our lives. In this way, even the most seemingly mundane parts of our lives become beacons pointing us and every person we encounter towards Christ.