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Use S.O.A.P. – Simple tips for spending time with God.

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A few months ago I listened to a lesson by Wayne Cordeiro that changed the way I spent my time in the Bible every day (you can listen to it here. The lesson was so practical but also so relevant and inspiring. The reality was that I wasn’t going to the Father with my needs. I wasn’t going to Him and growing in my relationship with Him. I was basically getting spiritual crumbs from books, podcasts and my pastor. I was living vicariously through others’ relationships with God.

Wayne’s lesson was a needed kick in the pants. He reminded me of my need for a one-on-one relationship with God. While it’s good to learn from others, Jesus calls us to follow Him (not follow others who are following Him). This has always been one of my biggest struggles. After listening to Wayne, I knew that I needed to go to the Source.Wayne gives some helpful tips for spending time in the Bible. Being the nice guy I am, I’ll share those tips with you (and some others that I picked up along the way).

Tip #1:
The first tip is actually from zenhabits.net and writetodone.com. The author of both of these blogs (Leo Babauta) talks about putting triggers in you life to make you do the things that you don’t want to do.

What’s a trigger? It’s the event that sets off your habit. For example, when I used to smoke, I had a number of triggers: I would smoke upon waking, when stressed, after a meeting, etc. When I wanted to change that habit, I had to change each trigger so that I had a new habit to replace smoking. Upon waking, for example, I would exercise instead. To create a new habit, you need to strongly associate your habit with a trigger. For example, let’s say you want to write in the morning — you might awake, use the bathroom, make your coffee, and then start writing. So making coffee is the trigger for writing, and using the bathroom is the trigger for making coffee, and waking is the trigger for using the bathroom. And as you wake every day, you have no problem. Choose a trigger that you know you’ll do every day, and then do your writing right after it, without exception.

My trigger is getting dressed for work. Like Leo’s example above, I have other triggers before that, but this is the trigger for me to spend time with God.

Tip #2:
Have all the right resources. Wayne suggests that when you sit down to spend time in the Bible, you should have the following items.

  1. A Bible – This is a no brainer. But make sure it is version that you can understand (different versions of the Bible are written at different reading levels). I use the ESV…but you might find another version to your liking. Just go to your local book store and test a few out. See how easy they are to read and if you can understand the words that are being used.
  2. A Journal – This is where you are going to write down your thoughts. I use a blog to keep my daily thoughts, and it works well for me. Plus, I can share with my friends my daily reflections. Otherwise Wayne recommends using a paper journal and using the first few pages to keep an index of what you are learning. This way you can look back and see what your have been learning (another reason I use a blog…this is done automatically for me).
  3. A Reading Plan – Use whatever you want. Just have a plan. I am using the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan to read through the Bible each year. But you could make it as simple as reading two chapters a day or two pages. Whatever you do use a plan or else you’ll spend half your time trying to figure out what to read.
  4. A Planner - It’s going to happen. You are going to be in the middle of having a wonderful time with God. Journaling your heart our…and you are going to remember that you’re out of milk. This is where your planner comes in handy. You can write down, “get milk” and go right back to your journaling. If you don’t have a planner, just use a scratch piece of paper. This is probably the best advice that I got from Wayne. I don’t know how many times my God time was hijacked by random thoughts of things I need to do for the day.

Tip #3:
Use S.O.A.P. This is Wayne’s structure for your time with God. It stands for the following:
Scripture:
Start off with the Bible. Read the verses that are on your plan for the day.
Observation:
As you read, write down any observations that you have from the text. I use the questions, “Who is God?,” and “How do I enjoy Him?,” to focus my observations even better.
Application:
Based on what you have read…what should you do? I try to make this practical and realistic. I set a goal for the day based upon my reading. Write it down and hold yourself accountable to it.
Prayer:
Last but not least, spend some time in prayer to God. Confess and repent of any sins that were brought to light while you were reading. Spend time thanking God. Also spend some time in silence listening to God.

Tip #4:
Keep it simple. The goal of your time with God is to try to grow closer to Him. It’s not to check off your list. Don’t add extra burdens to this focus. “I have to make at least 15 observations.” “I have to write at least 5 pages in my journal.” “I have to pray for at least 45 minutes.” The goal is to spend time with God and to grow closer to Him. Do what it takes to do just that…the rest is just distractions, burdens, and religion.

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  • Deveney Tucker

    GREAT IDEA!! God bless you for sharing this.
    Deveney

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  • http://trulycaptivating.com Susanne

    Great post!! I often refer to “SOAP” in blogs/twitter. Been looking for a reference that defines the process to help explain it to readers. Thanks for providing that!! This process totally changed how I spend my time with God, and I just love sharing about it!

  • http://lattejust4me.blogspot.com Cathy Davis

    A friend of mine referred me to your site after I was asking for tips on quiet time. I was tickled to see you use S.O.A.P. and talk about Pastor Wayne. I had the opportunity to listen to him speak on this topic last year (how quickly I forget what I’ve heard).

    I posted most of your post into a post on my blog. Thank you for the assist. Godspeed!

    Cathy Daviss last blog post..Got S.O.A.P.?

  • http://google.com/zsxdg sandrar

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  • sw

    Lovely and concise post! Thanks alot – I’m sharing this with my cell group =)

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  • Jamrateam

    I was spending time with God today… and He sent me to this page… wonderful tips! The link to Pastor Wayne's sermon is gone… but i'm going to try and find it on their website :)

    Thank you again for your insight and tips! Great words of encouragement :)

  • http://twitter.com/stevecmiles Steve Miles

    Nice article. I appreciate the knowledge of “triggers.” I’ve been SOAPing for a couple of years and i do have a routine. I like having a handle for it. Thanks!

  • Londonl2010

    Well thanks these were really nice tips and seeing as how I’ve been having a hard time spending time with God and getting closer to him this gave me a guideine as to how to do it. Now when you say spend time in prayer with God im wandering are you saying just talk to him or really pray with him.Because I dont think I know how to pray that good I dont know what to say a lot of the times.So can you please comment as soon as possible and help me or anyone who can on this page.

  • sarasalusso

    For Londonl2010
    The first step to prayer is to want to be better so your heart is good to want that. Then pray for a better prayer life. Solomon prayed for wisdom and got so much wisdom that you can read about it in Ecclesiastes. Open up to the Spirit side of God because He is the part of the Trinity that prays and intercedes for us when we do not know what to say. Start with something like the Lords prayer which opens with Praise to the Father, Asks for Forgiveness of our sins then Asks for Needs to be met. And closes again with Praise. Remember seek and you will find. Prayer is your way of seeking what you read about in the Bible. I actually personally like to sing my prayers. I also dance in a prayer when I am all alone. I consider this an action prayer and I perform it for a Loving Creator to please Him and entertain Him since I love to have His audience. When I notice that He wants only reverance then I will pray in honor on my knees. Read in the old testament about. “I will sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously the horse and rider fell into the sea”. This was of course about conquering Pharaoh. He loves to conquer our enemies when they try to keep us from Him. Many of the Psalms are songs to God. Read them for Inspiration. I like Psalm 45, 100, 119. God is a King but also your best friend ever so speak with reverance and comfort at the same time. He will answer your prayer.

  • Iowa Guest

    Interesting how God works sometimes. I was reading Max Lucado’s book “race for the Moment” (April 28) titled “Secondhand Spirituality.” I did a Google search for “How to spend time with God” and the first link I followed was to this page. Then I read, “I was living vicariously through others’ relationships with God.” This is sooooo true for me. Thank you for the practical and relevant tips.

  • Anonymous

    I love your tips… #4 really hit me – I get too bogged down with the “distractions, burdens, and religion” part of devotions too often. It’s really tiring and doesn’t motivate me to spend more time with God. I appreciate this tip.

    The triggers tip is a really good idea I’ve never heard of before – I’ll have to start using this. Thanks!

  • C-rouse

    Thank you:)

  • Megan LaPlaca

    I love your tips!  :D

  • Ahunter4256

    I love this! So many Christians, whether babies in Christ or even those who are mature get sidetracked and don’t know where to start in their study of God’s Word. I end up jumping around so much that I don’t retain anything. This is a much simpler way.

  • Dan Morrow

    Nice post. Additionally, I would recommend writing a one (maybe two) sentence summary of what you learned during your Scripture reading (whatever was most important or interesting to you). Then, if your regular meeting time is in the morning, review your sentence that evening before bed. If you read Scripture at night, then read your summary first thing in the morning. Repetition is important when trying to learn something, have something become part of you. You might even glance at it at lunch, or during another time of the day. It helps you stay reflective and keep God in perspective.

  • Sincerly_phanie

    thank you so much , ineeded this ! 

  • Shantrese

    Thanks for the tips…I really think this will work for me.

    —-Finding my way in Alabama

  • Mrs. Phine

    I thank GOD for your site.  i really need to spend time with GOD so I’ll be able to help someone going through. I’m going to try the S.O.A.P tip… Be bless

    • Cletsoalo

      Hello my Brother Christ. Thank God all thing life through heart because God give us. I thank God great. Because i accept through save Jesus Christ. I still faith to Jesus. I want servant Lord. i want though lead Him but i want yield to God. i am man and i am deaf. Clifford 

  • Delrioelizabethmae

    I thank God for this site and speak of His  wisdom upon it that many will be blessed like me. If I may share, intimate relationship  with God begins with trust. And how can we trust someone we don’t really know him. So,we must study about the nature of God . One way is to  know some of His names (e.g. El-Elyon,Adonai,Everlasting Father ,etc) which we could use  to bless Him during our devotion or worship time. Another is to sing Him a song with all your heart. Then, listen to His voice by being quiet and waiting. God Bless!

  • Sylvia Wilson

    Fantastic!  this is most helpful to me, thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000098111937 Emma Gray

    This is perfect !

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