No Agenda Required

Most people I know believe that they should read the Bible and pray more than they do. Even though I don’t really know the challenges of their daily lives, I know the challenges of mine, and I am pretty sure they are right. It isn’t always easy to “work in” time for private, intimate worship and study.

Still, the other thing people seem generally to believe is that they need a plan. They should have a guide for reading the Bible, or they should know more about how to pray before they begin. They can’t start reading the Bible and praying regularly, because they don’t know what to read or what to pray about. On this issue, I know they are wrong. You can read the Bible without a plan, the same way you read a newspaper or a novel. You can pray without a plan, the same way you have a conversation with the person you love most. These experiences will be good for you. They will help you grow into deeper faith and maturity. You do not need a plan.

To say that is not to say that plans are bad or unnecessary. It depends on a lot of things. Where are you in your faith? Where do you want to go with God? How on earth will you shoehorn into your day even one more thing? There is nothing wrong with plans or agendas, but if the lack of one keeps you from doing anything at all, that is a problem. If you don’t read the Bible or pray with any regularity today, and if you think you really want to grow in faith, and if you think that reading the Bible and praying is important to that growth, then a plan is not what you need first.

The first thing you need is five minutes. Five unimpeded, uninterrupted, absolutely committed minutes.

If you don’t have five minutes for Bible reading and prayer, then no plan or agenda is going to change that situation. I submit for your consideration this question: How can you ever follow any plan at all if you can’t even set aside five minutes for Bible reading and prayer? There is no cosmic barrier to your growth in faith. The barrier is a little five-minute appointment with God.

Just five minutes.

If you think exercise is important, you surely set aside time for that work. I doubt you think five minutes is enough exercise to have any good effect on you. If you think weight management is important, you probably spend more than five minutes a day thinking about what you eat and whether it is or is not good for you. It is doubtful that anything important in your day takes less than five minutes. Yet, five minutes for Bible reading and prayer could change your life.

I speak from experience. In the year 2000 my life took a dramatic turn. I became a consultant, and I began to travel to customer sites every Monday morning, returning each Thursday or Friday to my home. I worked at least 12 hours per day on project tasks, and I had a heavy load of continuous professional education and administrative work related to my business. My days were full to overflowing. On weekends I tried to do all the things I might have done in my spare time during the week if I had been home. I tried used my time catching up with my husband, worshiping at church, visiting with family and friends, and trying to put my house in order. It was a huge life change.

Along with that life change came the perception that this change had the potential to fracture my marriage, even though my husband and I had both agreed that this decision was the best way to reach some very important goals we shared. I worried that the frenzy of this life and the stress of separation would fray our relationship. I worried that either or both of us would start to think like separate individuals instead of like the two who had become one in our marriage. I felt that without God’s help, all our hopes and dreams could fall apart under the stress of all these changes. I thought I needed to make yet one more change at this particular time.

I found five minutes.

I decided that every morning, as soon as I had a cup of coffee in my hand, I would take five minutes for Bible reading and prayer. I told myself that even reading a couple of verses and praying two sentences would at least sustain my commitment to God. I wanted his help to keep our family strong during this very stressful time.

I spent five minutes each morning doing two things. I read two verses in the Bible. I prayed about whatever those two verses inspired. I asked God to help sustain my marriage.

Today I spend a lot more than five minutes a day in Bible reading and prayer. That’s a good thing. I have grown in many ways since the first day I sat down to read my two verses and say a prayer that didn’t amount to much more than “Help me, help me, help me.” Anne LaMotte says there are really only two kinds of prayer. This is one. The other is “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” As I slowly matured in my ability to spend five minutes with God every day, I occasionally had reason to pray the “thank you” prayer as well. I grew in faith, and I grew in my commitment, but it all started with only five minutes.

You have five minutes.

You only need to decide that you will without fail set aside five minutes, with or without a cup of coffee, to be with God. You will take five minutes to listen and to speak with the One Jesus taught us to address as “Our father who art in heaven.” Five minutes. You will be surprised what happens. I can’t predict how it will develop for you. I can only tell you that for me, it became a safe haven in each day that I did not want to miss. At first it was a pain to remember it. I had to devise various ways to assure that I didn’t forget. Now it is much easier, but make no mistake, The evil one does not want you to spend even five minutes in rich communion with God. It will never be a done deal. But it is worth the battle.

You have five minutes somewhere. You know you do. Just do it. Let me know how it goes.