|The extent of this month's personal study|
Throughout most of my 20's, I had a consistent, classic "quiet time" every day. Every weekday morning, I got up, read a chapter of the Bible, and wrote in my prayer journal. I had comprehensive prayer request lists and even prayed about specific topics on certain days of the week (I remember that Friday was for family, and Wednesday was to pray for spouses for my unmarried friends, and then for their marriages as they all got married). It was rewarding, but also something of a false security for me – even though I was a failure in other ways, at least I had this much-hyped aspect of the Christian life wrapped up. Despite not being a morning person AT ALL, I even did it in the morning, because that's the holiest time of day to commune with God, right? :P
When I was 27, my ex-husband and I bought a house in the suburbs. I no longer lived down the street from my workplace and had to get up earlier. I tried to continue with my morning devotions, but they quickly dwindled to a few days a week. Eventually, after repeatedly staring drowsily at the same sentence for the entire time, I gave up. The old ways were not going to work anymore. I started reading and praying at night, inconsistently, but was never as focused or mindful about it again.
Lately I'm as far from that quiet time piety as I've ever been, and it worries me. Although I'm even more interested in the Bible now, I'm mostly getting it through other avenues – listening to sermons online, reading topical books, going to church and small groups. For whatever reason, it's become really difficult for me to sit down alone and study the way I used to. I've already done the Bible in a Year program and am not in the mood to do it again, and I can't just keep rereading Isaiah, the Psalms and the New Testament. A couple of months ago I bought a good commentary on Philippians (one of my favorites), thinking an in-depth study of one (easy) book would be interesting. Quality over quantity. But the discussion questions for each chapter take me forever to answer, and I don't even feel like I'm retaining much. So I'm not up to date with that either. I've heard these same laments from many mom friends, but I don't even have the acceptable distraction of a child. My distractions are other books, or my cats, or Friends reruns that I've seen ten times. Meanwhile, I hear things like, "Reading God's Word regularly is essential to knowing Him," and even "Your quiet time is as important as plans you make with friends, and if you don't 'show up,' you are standing Jesus up." And I love God and want to know Him more, but at this time I can't get motivated to habitually seek Him in this specific way. Sometimes I do genuinely want to, but it doesn't happen on a schedule.
My individual prayer life doesn't fall within measurable channels anymore either. I've become a person who prays for people and situations as they come to mind, and thanks God for things as they happen. I keep up a sort of casual conversation with Him throughout my day. But if I sit down alone with a list and try to grasp at prayer and do Real Spiritual Business, it runs through my hands like sand. I can't concentrate or find the right words. Since my difficult times a few years ago, I've noticed that I pray on more of a gut level. Often when I feel passionate about something in prayer, I can't even express my thoughts, so I send up a mostly wordless emotion and trust that the Holy Spirit can translate it. Is that lazy? Does it "count" for anything? I don't know. Paul Miller's book A Praying Life made me feel better about this, but it's hard to shake off the feeling that prayer ought to look a certain way.
Believe it or not, this is only the tip of my iceberg of angst on the subject. I don't have a decisive conclusion either. I'm mainly sharing so if others are struggling with this, they'll know they're not alone. I've given up on finding a quick fix to get me "back on track," and am actually wondering if this is even something that needs to be fixed. Maybe this is a part of spiritual growth, and it's okay to have an open mind. Maybe it's another area where I need to start acting like I believe in grace, toward myself as well as toward others, instead of just talking about it.