Use S.O.A.P. – Simple tips for spending time with God.
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).
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.
Have all the right resources. Wayne suggests that when you sit down to spend time in the Bible, you should have the following items.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.