John Wesley once wrote, "Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry." The late Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, penned, "Hurry is not of the devil. It is the devil." And the great Reformer, Martin Luther, is quoted as having said, "Work, work, from early to late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer."
Sometimes, in fact many times, I feel hurried. I get ready to spend time in prayer and meditating on Scripture, and I feel pulled to the many activities on my to-do list. Like John Wesley, I can always be in haste, but unlike him, I'm always in a hurry, too. And my rushed demeanor pulls me away from things that really matter like deepening my prayer life and spending more time with people. I even find myself thinking ahead to my next appointments when I'm sitting down with my current appointment! Thus, I'm compromising the integrity of being present in the moment where I'm truly listening, reflecting, encouraging, and supporting. I'm also compromising the integrity of truly listening to the Holy Spirit and reflecting on His Word.
I've been convicted of late, once again, to spend more time in prayer, but in order to do so, I need to change some behavior patterns. Perhaps some of these next steps I hope to take will be an encouragement to your prayer life as well.
First, I need to separate my office space from my prayer space. This doesn't mean I can't pray in my office, but when I get in my office each morning and attempt to pray and read the Bible, I get too easily distracted. If the first thing I do when I sit down at my desk is turn on my computer where my email and calendar pop up, I'm doomed. I need to develop a "prayer closet" where I can be alone with God and my Bible.
Second, I need a plan. I don't want to be slave to my plan, because I tend to over plan things. But if I don't have a Scripture reading plan, a journal and my prayer list, my mind can easily wander, and I'm not fully present in that moment with God. Currently I'm reading through the Bible in a year, journaling and praying. To keep things fresh, however, I generally will rotate between Scripture memory and zeroing in on a book of the Bible, and then at other times I'll pull back to a macro-level of reading larger portions of Scripture. I share that with you only to say one thing: develop a plan that works for you.
Third, I need to pray. And I mean really pray. Typically, I'll offer up my five-minute prayer for the day and be off to the races. And then I wonder why I feel so hurried. I'm genuinely convicted when I read Luther's quote of being so busy, he needs to spend the first three hours in prayer. It takes times to develop our prayer life, but develop it we must. I like following the "ACTS" model for prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It gives me some structure to keep me moving in my prayer time.
Fourth, I need accountability. When Jesus took Peter, James and John further into the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:42). And what did the disciples do? They fell asleep. Three times. Sounds like my prayer life. We all need accountability. We need someone who will encourage us to watch and pray and then touch base with us from time to time when we start to doze off or drift in our prayer life. Accountability is not to control but to encourage. The bottom line is we have to self-monitor and commit to living a disciplined and joyful life of keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
Yes, it takes discipline, but Christ-like discipline leads to freedom. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, "If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your senses, for fear and longings may lead you away from the path you should follow. Chaste be your mind and your body, and both in subjection, obediently, steadfastly seeking the aim set before them; only through discipline may a man learn to be free."
Be encouraged. We all have room to grow in deepening our walk with Jesus in the power of His Spirit, even this preacher who, after many years, is still trying to be always in haste but never in a hurry.