The forming of habits can be a good thing, especially if the things that become habits are good for us. For example brushing your teeth, or locking the front door when you leave the house are both good habits! A habit is something that we do almost automatically, something that is second nature to us. Would you say that reading the Bible and prayer are habits for you? Are they things you do almost automatically every day?
Regular reading of the Bible and praying really is good for us as followers of Jesus. The Bible is the way we get to know God better; it is how God speaks into our lives. The Bible is what God often uses to confront us with our sin. It is also how He brings us words of comfort and encouragement. He uses it to remind us of the forgiveness we have received through Jesus Christ; He uses it to assure us of the eternal salvation we can have through knowing Him. It is the Bible that keeps the big picture of our world and its future in front of us. The Bible really is good for us.
It is also good for us to pray. Prayer is how we respond to God. Prayer is how we ask for help. Prayer is how we help others. A quick read of the gospels shows us that both the reading of the scriptures, and regular times of prayer were habits for Jesus.
The good news is that even if we don’t have strong habits of Bible reading or prayer, new habits can be formed with just a little bit of effort.
It has been identified that there are three steps to take when forming habits:
Set a cue – This is creating a trigger that tells your brain when and which habit to use.
Establish a routine – This is an activity, emotion or behaviour.
Notice your rewards – This is how your brain determines if a loop is beneficial to you or not.
Here is an example of these three steps in practice, that I am sure you are all very familiar with already.
CUE “I’m feeling bored”, ROUTINE “I grab for my phone”, REWARD “I feel happy.”
Here is how you might use these steps to form some new habits in your life of Bible reading and prayer...
Set a CUE
Set an alarm on your phone or on your clock. Set a time when you want to be prompted to read and pray. Plan and arrange for a few close friends to ask you every so often how you are getting on. All these can be good CUES to get the habit started.
Establish a ROUTINE
Here is my own personal routine. I set my alarm for a time when our house will still be quiet (the children will still be in bed). I pray a quick prayer to ask for God to help me as I read, and to keep me from getting distracted. I ask Him to speak to me through His word, before I read and reflect. I then spend some time praying about what I’ve read, and then I pray for others. A simple routine like that could be done in 10-15 minutes.
If you are someone that would find it helpful to have something to guide your reading, find something good that helps you both read and understand the Bible. There are plenty of good resources, and I have put some links at the end of this article that will help to get you started (or keep you going) with your habit of Bible reading and prayer. Set your targets small, and work at making it regular. Set yourself a routine and stick to it.
Notice the REWARDS
Pay attention to the rewards of Bible reading and prayer. God promises that the Bible will refresh us, challenge us and help us know God better. When the Holy Spirit causes you to remember a bit of the Bible you’ve read, or brings it to mind at a time when you are tempted to sin, or when you notice behaviour changes in yourself because of what you’ve been reading, then thank God for this reward. When you notice that God answers specific prayers, thank Him. When prayer has given you peace even without the answer you hoped for, then notice this reward. The rewards feed the desire to keep doing the routine.
Ask for God’s help
I would probably want to add a fourth step in this process of healthy habit forming: Ask God’s Help! Ask God to help you develop these habits of regular Bible reading and prayer.
So there we have four simple and practical steps to start forming a good habit of Bible reading and prayer this year. These could be used for you personally, or to form a habit in your family life, or with a friend. They could also be used to help your children form a habit they might have for life.
What resources can I use?
Daily Bible Reading NotesHere are some links to places you can get some good daily Bible reading notes. There are lots of variety. They normally suggest a small bit of the bible to read, have a short explanation, a question to help you think it through, and then a suggestion for prayer. Some are dated; others are not.
Study GuidesHere are some suggestions if you want to have a bit of a longer, more in-depth look through books of the bible or particular subjects.
Family ResourcesHere are some resources that can be used for families. Either to help the kids do it for themselves or that can be done as a family. For example, over breakfast, an evening meal or before bed.
Work through the Bible in a yearThere are lots of reading plans to help you get started in reading through the whole Bible over one or two years.
This is a brilliant article on some options for getting through the Bible in a year or more:
If you have a phone or tablet, then PrayerMate (https://www.prayermate.net/app) is a great app to help you keep a simple list of things to pray for.
The Good Book Company also sell a paper prayer diary if that is more your thing!
- Nathan Howard, Pastor