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How-To for the Gung-Ho

shoutout my iPhone and my dad's height genes long arms are very convenient for artistic photo angles

A while back, I wrote about the importance of reading your Bible and praying every day, and how I think we (Christians) have done a disservice to ourselves by dismissing the most powerful tools of our faith as "Sunday school answers" — stuff so obvious, so basic, we just assume they're automatic.

"I don't read my Bible and pray out of obligation, or because they're nice, Sunday school things to do," I wrote. "I read the Bible and pray because I'm a little desperate; because when I live in a state of submission to the Holy Spirit, I'm not just reading words on a page and filling a notebook with thoughts. I'm having a back-and-forth conversation with the author of my story, and I wake up every day in need of the next sentence."

That's still super true, and I'm glad I got an articulate form of what is often a soap-boxy rant to close friends out there in the world.

One thing it was missing, though, was any kind of helpful advice on how to actually go about doing it. And in conversations since, several people have pointed out that a little guidance and insight should probably go hand-in-hand with the rally cry.

It feels awkward writing about what my "quiet times" look like, but not as awkward as sitting in front of an open Bible being like, Alright, yeah, so, Genesis 1, very cool. Do I talk out loud now, or...?

I know this because I am a real authority on awkwardness, and therefore possess the credentials and highly attuned ability to rank things on the Universal Scale of Awkward.

I also know this because I've been there, as has just about anyone else who loves the Lord and is doing their best to follow him day in and day out. What starts out feeling unnatural — because, in our broken state, it is — becomes sweet and sacred as we begin to glean from and understand the power and connection that time provides.

While there is no correct way to go about spending time with God, as with any relationship, it helps to have a little guidance the first few times you hang out. For anyone who wants a little how-to to go with my gung-ho, here's what the Bible and prayer looks like for me on a daily basis.

First thing during my own quiet time (we have to find a better term for this, guys), I read Savor, a daily devotional by Shauna Niequist — quite possibly my favorite author, ever.

For the "meat" of my Bible study, though, I'm an OG IF:Equip devotee. Their daily online Bible study is Scripture-heavy, the way I like it — because frankly, as good and Spirit-led and inspiring as others' writing may be, it's really never going to beat straight up God. I am always wary of studying others' books and teachings and interpretations more than I study the source itself.

As I go through Savor and whatever we're studying on IF, I keep my prayer journal out and write down verses or commentary that I especially like.

Aaand then, I pray.

Or rather, I prayer journal. Because in case you haven't noticed, writing is my favorite form of communication; and also, on a practical level, it keeps me focused. (The only place I can pray out loud without distraction is in the car. I have had some regular revivals on road trips, man.)

Prayer, more than Bible study, is really where I hear a lot of people say they get tripped up. And to that, I usually answer, don't. Talk to God. Don't worry about content or formula. The last time I checked, Jesus had a thing for imperfect people. Stumble along. He's cool with it.

But I also understand the feeling of wanting some structure. There are probably thousands of ways to provide that, and I would highly recommend you research some yourself. I've heard some really cool ones.

Personally, though, I always fall back on basing my prayers on the Lord's Prayer. I don't recall where I originally heard the idea, but the reasoning behind using it as a framework is that it's the "example prayer" Jesus used when his disciples asked for prayer guidance. Game, set, match, yanno?

I don't use the exact words of the prayer, just the progression and ideas, mostly.

Worship him. (hallowed be thy name)
Submit to him. (your will be done)
Claim his provision. (our daily bread)
Claim his grace. (forgive us... as we forgive)
Refocus on and worship him again. (for thine is [everything, basically])

Then I pray for my people, and circle back around to anything that just needs some extra attention that day — big or small, just something I need to talk to him more about — and I start my day.

So there you have it: a little application to go with my previous rant. That's what the Bible and prayer for me look like on the daily.

It will look different for everyone, which is beautiful and good; but in the beginning, it helps to have an idea or two. If you have thoughts to add or ideas of your own, you should leave them in the comments — not because I'm looking for comments (I know what you're thinking: you sneaky attention-hungry blog nerd), but because so much of our spiritual disciplines (the practices and rituals I incorporate into my life because of my faith) are cobbled together from what we've observed in or learned from others. Let's share the love, yeah?

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