I often say to people who ask about bible reading and personal worship that rising early, reading the bible, prayer and worship is essential, and it is essential to do it early in the morning.
Is this just an unnecessary hard rule that has no hint of leverage in it? No. I understand that some personalities work better at different parts of the day, so I like to add this caveat: Do what works for you.
However, I also like to add this: My personal strengths don’t impact the unknown stuff that begins coming my way as soon as the world begins to wake up. In fact, even in the face of my pretty solid resolve, the days jobs and variables usually begin rolling in around 7:30 and they will “choke out the word” and make it unfruitful.
You may note that I referenced Jesus’ parable of the sower right there. Now, let me be clear, exegetically, I don’t think one can use that parable for anything other than the clear intent that only the good soil is a follower of the Lord. So, how I referenced the parable above is simply to help us see that as followers of the Lord Jesus, the world will do its very best to choke out the world and make it unfruitful, and the good soil that is Jesus’ followers will root out all the sources that choke out the word to keep it from being fruitful. Any failure to cultivate the soil of our lives to make it productive is evidence of unbelief.
Having said that, we all have to do whatever we must in order to make the word as fruitful as it possibly can be in us. For me, that is planting the word deep in my heart before the day begins its assault or that assault will choke out the word.
For example: Two days ago, I slept in until 6:30. I know, some of you are hating me right now. I got up and did my routine, and by the time I got to my personal worship, the interruptions of the day had begun, and it took me the rest of the morning to fit bible reading, prayer and worship into and in between the day, and I got to the end of my discipline and felt it had been “blahhh”. Why, I let the cares of the world choke out the word. I had to weed that garden of that late getting up. How did I do that? I went to bed earlier that night, and set my alarm for my normal time to get up. Discipline. By the way, that is the root of disciple.
When we discipline ourselves to meet with the Lord, he promises to meet us. Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV) You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
A great example for me was today, and it reinforced the discipline of seeking the Lord consistently. Before I tell you the quick story I want to reiterate, that you need to do what works for you. If you can have cultivated time that is not choked out by other things at different times of the day, then cool beans. But if you can’t you are going to have to set a time when you can tune those things out and get with God.
So, I was doing my early morning prayer walk. I like to rise when it is dark, walk the dog for about 3 miles and pray. As I was lamenting my sin, my failures, my regrets etc. during the time of my prayer to confess (today was particularly poor time of self pity and frustration and a host of other things as I’m exceptionally hard on myself), I moved on into praying for others, and then finally myself (I begin with praise, then thanksgiving, then confession, others, self…that’s my prayer routine that I have recently learned from a dear brother and enjoyed). I prayed for myself that the Lord would help me take strength and perseverance. I entered the house, grabbed some coffee, headed over to my desk, opened my journal and bible to my passages for today (same bible reading plan for 27 years, so I’ve been through the OT 27 times and the NT and Psalms 54 times…you get what you plan for something and execute), and guess what was waiting for me in 2 Chronicles 15?
2 Chronicles 15:7 (ESV) But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
How did God, in his infinite wisdom and providential grace, align this passage for this day (I have read this same passage on this day for 27 years) when I was feeling this way? I am simply speechless…amazed…in awe…again. Its not the first time the Lord has done that for me. He’s done it countless times, and each time is like brand new and fresh and faith building and energizing and healing and a hundred other things.
As I gave thanks to the Lord for this glorious providence, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this passage:
Psalms 50:14-15 (ESV) Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
So, part of my intent today is to get you to consider adopting the discipline of rising early to worship the Lord as a discipline in your life, and I’d settle for the discipline of that happening consistently at some time that works for you, but I’m biased toward early 🙂
And the other part is to obey Psalm 50:14-15. I want to simply lift up the name of Jesus as worthy of praise and receiving everything I am and have. I called on him, and he lifted me out of my internal distress with a providential miracle. I looked up and there was a figurative ram caught in the bushes for me to see the provision of the Lord (reference to Abraham on the mountain with Isaac and the Lord supplying the sacrifice). So, I want you to know that the reward for seeking the Lord is greater.
So, get after it, do it how you need to do it, but by all means, do it and enjoy the fruit the Good Shepherd produces from cultivated discipline.