I picked up my Bible the other day and tried to read. As usual, my children descended like the locusts of old and totally blew my concentration. In an act of not-so-righteous parenting, I yelled at them to get out and leave me alone for five minutes. Just five minutes.
I like myself better when I read scripture. It helps me keep the big picture in mind, and I find I'm more patient after a good session reading the good word. However, my life and kids get in the way sometimes. I look back some weeks and realize my Bible is gathering dust, unloved and unused after days spent running kids around, maintaining a house and keeping up with my career. When life gets busy, it's time to get creative.
If you're like me, here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your limited Bible study time.
Find the time somewhere — anywhere
The biggest barrier to effective scripture study is actually sitting down to read. Some parents swear by waking up before their kids to fit in some uninterrupted reading. Others like to wait until after the kids have gone to bed. I know some genius parents who keep a Bible in the car glove box and pull it out every time they are waiting for a kid to finish up an activity or get out of school. I read each morning on my smartphone while I nurse my baby. Find what works for you, and commit to at least a few verses a day.
When you get off-track, which will inevitably happen, don't give up. Reassess whether or not your time is working, and keep going the next day. Worry less about perfection, and focus on trying.
Start with a prayer
God speaks to us through His word, and our distracted lives require a little extra help to listen. When you pray before you read, you're opening up your mind to receive God's instructions for your life. If you have specific questions or concerns, include them in your prayer. It's surprising how often you'll find answers while you read. I also find that praying before reading gets me in the right frame of mind to hear admonishing. In my daily life, I'm not always open to hearing what I've done wrong, but when I pray, I feel myself humbled enough to see areas where I can improve.
Too often, I've felt answers to prayers during my scripture reading and then promptly forgotten them 10 minutes later. If God takes the time to teach you while reading your Bible, do Him a favor and make it stick. Keep a notebook with your study materials and jot down ideas that come to mind. Look back over these scripture journals every few months and see the direction God is leading your life. You'll start to see trends and patterns the longer you journal.
When you can't keep up a consistent habit on your own, it's time to call in some friendly reinforcements. Get a group of three to five friends who share your religious devotions and form a study group. You can meet weekly for discussion sessions if you have time, or you can text and e-mail each other daily to share thoughts and impressions. This positive form of peer pressure will prevent you from slacking off for too long. You won't want to let the group down.
Daily study of God's word will transform your life. When we read the Bible, we feel less fear, have more patience and figure out the path God has in store for our lives. Don't let little distractions get in the way of cultivating a personal relationship with God. He wants to speak with you, and one way God talks to His children is through His written word. When it comes to scripture study, the only way to fail is to not read at all. Be smart. Study.