Most nature and outdoor lovers like you and me thrive on extended time in the wilderness, at a cabin or campsite, on a multi-day trek.
We value it and look forward to it. We make plans weeks, months, even years in advance to make time for it.
What about extended time with God? Do you value that as much?
The Rewards of Extended Time
The rewards of extended time with anyone we value are deeper relationship, enjoyment, encouragement, access to their dreams and desires, sharing life at different levels.
The Lord created us like Himself, in His image. Part of that is being relational. No matter where you are on the extrovert/introvert scale, you’ve been designed to long for meaningful relationship with others.
And God loves relationship, too! In fact, Jesus came for the very purpose of reconciling us to the Father—to deal with the sin issue in our lives so we can come back into relationship with Him.
When we dedicate time just to spend with Him, He loves it! It pleases Him. It fills Him with joy.
What Can Extended Time Look Like?
What a great question…and one that will probably be answered differently for each of us.
The season of life you’re in undoubtedly affects your answer.
When I was a mom with babies and toddlers at home, I had to squeeze in time when I could get it. Now that my husband and I are empty nesters and I’m self-employed, I have so much more freedom over my schedule.
And “extended” in itself isn’t necessarily the ticket. Time without a real, meaningful connection with the Lord isn’t as fruitful.
But the saying “It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality” isn’t always true either. Five minutes of quality time might get you more than 30 minutes of distracted time. But 60 minutes of quality time is much better than both.
There are a few things I’ve done or have been doing just in the last few years that have made a big difference in my engagement level with God. Maybe these will spark ideas for you, too:
Reading 5-10 Chapters a Day in the Bible
I often did what lots of people do—read one chapter a day. Aim to read the Bible in a year.
But my understanding of the big picture changed so much when two guest speakers came to my local church several years ago and challenged us to read 5-10 chapters a day.
Many of us took on that challenge for many years, and wow, what a difference!
You start to see the Bible as a whole, instead of a bunch of non-related pieces that happen to be put between the same two covers.
Instead of slogging through Leviticus in a month, you read it in 3 days—and have a much better picture of the whys of all those rules.
Instead of dreading reading through all those genealogies again, you start to get a picture of the Lord’s commitment to generations, not just to individuals.
At 5-10 chapters a day, you can easily get through the entire Bible two, three, even four times in a calendar year. All that seed gets planted in your spirit and mind over and over again.
Sure it takes time. 10 chapters usually takes me about 45 minutes. But it helped make the Bible come alive more than ever before.
The 30-Day Shred
Last year I joined my son, daughter and a few others from our church to do the 30-Day Shred Bible reading plan (it’s on the YouVersion Bible app).
That was even more eye-opening! You literally read the Bible through in 30 days, with an average of 40 chapters a day!
It took me about 2-1/2 hours each day, usually spread over 2-3 chunks of time, and done with a combo of reading and listening to an audio version.
75% of that 30 days is spent in the Old Testament. The birds-eye view you get of the immense compassion and faithfulness of God was what stood out to me the most.
And if you go start the Shred on December 1st like we did, you’ll begin the New Testament on Christmas Eve. So cool!
If you’re in a time of life where this is possible, a solo retreat for 2-4 days (preferably in a place without cell phone or internet access) can be very special.
I’ve done this several times to get vision and strategy for my work, and I’ve done 1-day retreats at home here and there for personal renewal.
Weekly Prayer Shift
Back in 2008 our church started a House of Prayer. We ask for a weekly commitment of at least an hour (at the same time every week), preferably in the Prayer Room at the church building.
I took on a 3-hour shift on Thursday mornings from 6-9:00 am somewhere back around 2010.
For awhile—a long while—I was just being faithful to my commitment. I would pray for the music ministry, where I served. I would pray for situations in government, or with family or friends, or for those Christians living under persecution.
Several years into it, I began to notice the Lord was meeting me during my prayer shifts in significant ways. He would speak to me there about things, give me direction, guide my prayers very specifically.
It was during one of those shifts, in the fall of 2019, that the Lord dropped the idea into my mind to write a devotional for outdoor and nature lovers. In another shift a month or two later He gave me the title for it: Heaven and Nature Sing.
It’s been very, very cool to look back and see the growth in my own prayer life and sensitivity to the Lord’s voice.
Weekly Pray Days
This one was on another level for me. Last summer (2022) I learned about a Christian business organization from Australia called Kingdom Initiatives.
The founder, who leads a billion-dollar corporation over there, practices and teaches others to practice what he calls Pray Days.
This active CEO takes an entire day in the middle of the work week to get into the bush and seek God about their business and their work with Kingdom entrepreneurs around the world.
An entire day. Every week. In the middle of the work week.
Well, I took on the challenge starting in August. I had already been taking an hour or two a week seeking the Lord about my business, but this amped it up to half a day.
(Since I was already committed to my 3-hour prayer shift at church, I decided my Pray Day would be 5-6 hours once a week, on a work day, for a total of 8-9 hours a week.)
Not every Pray Day is necessarily life changing. But within a month of committing to these, the Lord spoke clearly to me about something I’d been asking Him about for at least a year. I like that!
What Prohibits this Kind of Extended Time?
The first word that came to my mind when I asked this question is busyness. But I don’t think that’s the #1 issue.
I think the #1 thing that prohibits this kind of lengthy time is lack of commitment or dedication. Sure, we’re all busy. But what we’re busy with is the real kicker.
It’s so easy to be busy with good things. It’s also easy to use up time with insignificant, useless things—lots of time!
We may resist the idea of spending 45 minutes reading 10 chapters in the Bible, but have no problem spending an hour watching our favorite TV show or reading a good novel.
Pray for 30 minutes—Really? But how easy is it to spend 30 minutes mindlessly scrolling through social media?
We all have time for what’s important to us. It may sound cliché, but it’s true.
The Lord is After Our Time
Time is probably the most valuable thing any of us has. It’s the one thing we can’t take back or get more of.
How do you know if you’re giving Him enough of your time? Ask Him! If you feel way too busy to carve out extended time with Him, ask Him to order your life around His priorities for you.
I heard a wonderful illustration about this many years ago: Think of all the things you’re so busy with as items you can put into a big bag. Now dump out the bag—empty it. Then ask the Lord what items to put back in your bag. Only put those items back in that He directs you to.
If you don’t have a desire to read the Bible or spend time with Him in prayer, ask Him to change your heart and give you that desire.
Or, just start doing it faithfully as an act of obedience. I think you’ll find your heart will begin to change.
The Lord Rewards Those Who Seek Him
This is a recurring theme throughout the entire Bible. While it’s true we can’t earn our salvation, that doesn’t mean we have a passive faith.
Here are some of the scriptures that emphasize this:
“From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29
“ Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God…” 1 Chronicles 22:19
“The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of mankind to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.” Psalm 14:2
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have practiced His ordinances; Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will remain hidden on the day of the Lord’s anger.” Zephaniah 2:3
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.” Matthew 6:33
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
(All scriptures New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.)
Let’s be part of the company of God’s people that spend extended, meaningful time with Him and see His Kingdom come!