I wish I had time.
I’ve said it. You’ve probably said it. It’s one of the most common problems of our modern age. There is so much to do, to see, to experience… but there’s only 24 hours in a day. And with 8 hours going to work, (hopefully) 6-8 hours going to sleep, that doesn’t leave much wiggle room to choose from. Especially if you have kids!
As we’ve embarked on this series on Prayer together, I realize one of the biggest obstacles to growing in our prayer lives is simply time. When are we going to have time to slow down, make space, and focus on communing with God? We have more demands on our schedule now than ever before – not to mention the constant temptation of a phone in our hands to keep our minds occupied.
And like any living thing, our spiritual lives wither away and die without time, nourishment, and investment. The things that grow us – like personal prayer time, gathering for worship, and community – sadly are the first things that get lost when we feel too busy, even when they make up a fraction of our actual time.
Think about it. There are 168 hours in a week. If 40 are spent working, 56 are spent sleeping, that leaves 72 hours of time. Say in a given week you spend 15 minutes a day with God, 2 hours (counting travel) for worship and 3 hours (counting travel) for City Group. That’s a full week of investment spiritually right? That’s only .09% of your time. It’s not much, if you think about it. But let’s be honest – it’s usually the first thing we cut because we, um, don’t have the time.
As I look at the prayer life of Jesus, I’m shocked at how often he says to pull away from everything and pray. Luke tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16 NIV).” Often. He’s God in flesh, and yet Jesus saw the need to continually spend time with the Father. I am challenged to think, “If Jesus needed to spend time consistently in prayer, how do I think I’m going to get by without it?
I get it – my life with a wife, a 5 year old, a toddler, and a church plant is chaotic. Time can seem to be hard to find. But then I remember something Dallas Willard said in his book The Great Omission: Time is made, not found. We don’t find time for what matters. If it matters, we make time. Or as Stephen Covey says, we don’t prioritize our schedule, we schedule our priorities.
In his book Simplify, Bill Hybels talks about our slavery to calendars and schedules that are out of control. He says: “A runaway calendar will keep you from simplifying your life. It holds you hostage to tangible things—meetings, appointments, and projects—without giving proper priority to the intangibles: who you are becoming, your relationships with family and friends, your connectedness to God. Without conscious intervention, this pattern of chronically overscheduling ensures that the priorities you care about most will take a backseat to the urgent priorities of others every time.
For me, remembering this truth has been a gut check I needed. We need to learn the difference between a guilt trip and a gut check. God is not a God who brings guilt, but he does bring challenge and conviction to help us grow. Like a personal trainer standing before us, we need that challenge. Like exercise for the body, we need spiritual exercise to grow stronger and become who we were made to be. You and I need regular, repeatable habits and patterns of spiritual investment if we want to grow as followers of Jesus Christ.
As I type this, my calendar is on the table beside me. I’m spending some time today thinking through how my schedule can reflect what I believe and value. I’m speaking for myself here when I say that busyness is no longer an excuse for the things that matter to be left untouched, untried, and pushed aside. I’m ready for more. I want the challenge. Do you?
As we learn Jesus’ patterns of prayer, we also need to learn his practices of prayer. How do we stay in communion with the Father? We’ll be exploring that more throughout the series. In the meantime, we’ll see you Sunday night as we continue the series!