I’ve been a first-thing-in-the-morning Coffee with Jesus person most of my adult life. That’s not to say I don’t ever miss this time with the Lord, but it’s my preferred way to greet each new day. Mug of steaming coffee in one hand, Bible across my lap, I gently wake up with Jesus.
Most days followed the same predictable rhythm—read a chapter or section from Scripture, meditate on it, noticing what stood out and how I could apply it to my life. Then I would close my big worn-around-the-edges Bible and begin to pray, by which I mean, I would begin to ask. I would tick through my prayers like a busy woman crossing items off an over-stuffed Christmas shopping list, seasoning it with confessions and words of thanks or praise.
Then, fully awake and having accomplished what I understood the point of a quiet time to be, I would emerge from my holy cocoon and go about my day.
I grew a lot in my faith through this morning practice of Coffee and Jesus. As I digested Scripture, I learned deep truths—about God, about his interaction with humanity, and my responsibility to love and serve others. But in the secret places of my heart, God still seemed a little…well…out there, whereas I wanted to sense his presence with me all day long.
Scripture tells us frequently that Jesus withdrew to a lonely place to pray. He did this after teaching all day on a hillside, after spending the night at a friend’s house, and after celebrating a long holiday meal with a group of his twelve closest friends. In none of these stories do I imagine Jesus taking with him a scroll containing ancient Scripture. He didn’t slip away to study.
What exactly was Jesus doing in these times when he went to a lonely place to pray? I don’t think his quiet times looked like mine. I don’t think Jesus got quiet with God so Jesus could express his love for God. I think Jesus went to isolated prayer places to be reminded of God’s love for him. Steeping in God-love is how we remember our true identity as his beloved.
I have recently turned my morning practice upside-down and it has made a big difference in the way I experience the presence of God. I have come to realize the point of spending time with God in the still of the day is not so much to learn more about God and offer him my thanks, praise, and concerns in prayer. It’s not even necessarily to have a takeaway—my morning manna—for the day. Those are the results of spending time with God.
The real point of spending time with God each day is to be reminded of his love for me.
We are prone to forgetting or misunderstanding, or even disbelieving the depth and permanence of God’s love for us. I wonder if sometimes we come to God to prove our love for him. Is that why we often drift throughout the day in discouragement, fear, and self-rejection—because we aren’t anchored in God’s love for us?
In his beautiful book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen says this, “For me personally, prayer becomes more and more a way to listen to the blessing. The real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. “You are my Beloved Child, on you my favor rests.” Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.”
To steep in God’s love and presence gives us an anchor, a safe harbor for the day from which we can flow out and back—always back, to where we are anchored. Right in the heart of God’s love for us. When we try to love and serve God and others out of our love for God, one bad mood will trump our good intentions and we’ll find ourselves licking our wounds and unable or unwilling to love or serve anyone. Only a heart anchored in God-love is able to keep loving and serving when the storm clouds blow.
I still greet the morning with my mug of steaming coffee, and my Bible is still next to me, but I don’t open it right away. I begin with a few deep breath prayers—to settle a mind that has already begun to churn, and to remind myself of God’s love and presence with me. And then I remain quiet and still, listening for the voice that tells me I am his Beloved.
Only once I have steeped in God-love do I open Scripture. It’s amazing how his Word comes to life when I’m anchored in his love. I still pray interceding for others and for the world, but much of my prayer time is now wordless, as I enjoy sitting in his presence.
If your quiet times are leaving you feeling dry, why not consider a shift in focus? The daily manna we seek need not be a new teaching or a time to tell God of our love for him. We do those things, but not as the goal, more as the response. The focus of our quiet time with God really should be to receive the fulness of his love for us. It is only when we are anchored in the unwavering fulness of his love that we can live out our day loving and serving God and others.