Most of us wouldn’t think to prepare ourselves before sitting down to read a book. We’d just dive in. Similarly, though, most of us wouldn’t think to not prepare for a conversation with a family member or close friend who wanted to share something important with us. We’d want to be sure we met in a place we could hear them well; we’d put our phone down; we’d get into a position to listen. Many of us approach the Bible like we might any other book. We pick it up when we can and start reading. Of course, this isn’t bad—any reading of Scripture is good—but we are missing out on a deeper encounter with God when we don’t prepare our hearts to really listen.
A number of years ago I started a kind of preparation process for reading my Bible. I don’t mean to sound overly formal. I didn’t write out a list or prepare PowerPoint slides. I didn’t do research on the best Bible reading techniques. Over time, I simply fell into a bit of a habit. Because my Chair Time has been the most transformative practice of my life, I thought I’d share some of what I do. Of course, this is no magical formula to “get” God to speak to you or force Him to share deep spiritual truths. This is just a way of opening up and putting yourself in a position to listen.
I try to sit in the same place every day. Of course it doesn’t matter so much where or what kind of chair I’m sitting in (unless it’s distracting). For years, my place was my train seat on my way downtown each morning. I know people whose place is their car in the parking lot of their office building or a table at the local McDonald’s. What matters, I have found, is going to the same place each day. Why? I can focus more quickly if I’m not thinking about what position is comfortable in this particular chair or taking in a new environment each day. Haven’t you noticed how your most innovative thoughts come while brushing your teeth or driving your usual route to work? Routine practices help free our brains to imagine and dream. Jesus did this. In Luke 22:39, we learn that it was “usual” for Him to go to the Mount of Olives to pray. We can only speculate why He did this, but it’s not hard to imagine that having a usual place helped Him to focus and be free of distractions.
Next, I try to have a posture of humility. So often, I can tend to read the Bible with an agenda. I have a question and need an answer. I have a need and want to know what the Bible says. I sometimes use verses in the Bible to prove a point. And these aren’t necessarily bad things. The Bible holds authority over my life as God’s Word. But I don’t want to impose my agenda and my plans on my Chair Time. I want to know God more and be in His presence—to abide in Him, as John 15 puts it. So, if I begin by simply opening my hands on my lap—showing with my body that I am open to God’s agenda, His will for my life, and to transformation of my heart, I am more likely to hear what God has to say to me. I try to ask these kinds of questions to begin: “God, what do you have for me today?” “What are you seeking to transform in my heart and mind?” This is a posture of humility and openness.
If I don’t have any idea of what I’ll be reading on a given day, I’ll end up spending nearly all the time I have trying to decide what to read. So, I try to have a plan going in. What I mean is two things: what am I reading? and How long will I read? Of course, I don’t want to be overly rigid if I feel God leading me elsewhere, but it has been really good for me to have something so I’m spending more time reading and less time deciding what to read. Also, I determine in advance how long I’m going to actually read and I often (though not always) set a timer. I like to spend at least 2/3 of the time I have reading Scripture and the rest of the time praying and reflecting on what I’ve read so the words become relevant and related to my life.
Lastly, I try to remember every day, whatever I read, wherever I am, however I’m feeling, that I’m entering into an important conversation not with a concept, idea, or disinterested being in the sky, but with a person—someone who loves me, pursues me, and wants what’s best for me. God desires to speak with me. Imagine. The Creator of all things, the Sustainer of my breath and life, the limitless God who became a limited man to be with me desires to cover me with His love, speak what’s universally true, and show me how to love. My heart is already more prepared than it otherwise would be when I remember this first. So, as I get settled in my daily spot, I might say aloud or in my mind something as simple (and wonderful) as, “God, You love me. Thank You.”
My Chair Time isn’t always a revelation. I have stretches in which I don’t seem to be hearing anything in particular from God or in which I don’t sense His presence. I have periods where I don’t want to read my Bible at all and am tempted to skip a day (and sometimes I do!). All normal. But this is why Chair Time is a discipline. Some days are hard. And yet, no other practice has allowed the kind of transformation, closeness with God, and strength to love others as this one. So, I keep at it. I hope you will too!
Either today or tomorrow morning, put these four things into practice in your Chair Time. Place: decide where and when you can consistently engage in this practice. Posture: decide how you will open yourself with humility to what God might want to say to you. Plan: decide what you will read and how long. Person: decide what you can do each day to remind yourself that Chair Time is a way of meeting with our personal, loving God.
Written by Kellye Fabian