1. What defines a strong relationship to God?
For a long time I thought that my relationship to God depended on the intensity and length of my quiet time. But I noticed that I could pray for a long time and still be in a bad mood and be annoyed by people.
That was when I read this vers from John 4,20:
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
Which means: If I love God that must lead to me loving my neighbor.
In Galatians 5 it is written:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Wow, that hit me pretty hard. I realised:
The more the fruit of God shows in my life, the stronger my relationship to God is! The same is true for the opposite: The more annoyed and loveless I am, the worse my relationship to God is.
Of course this could be theologically debated but I have decided the following:
“A strong relationship to God shows itself in the following way: If you a put a white flower in red water it will turn red. The longer it is in the water the redder it gets. It’s exactlty lthe same with God. The stronger it is the more my life will be influenced by him.
I need my time with God so I can represent his character in the world.
So the question remains how to organise my time so that he can grow within me?
2. How do you create your quiet time with God? What works well, what doesn’t?
My personal role models were revelation preachers like Charles Finney, that got up at 3 o’clock in the morning to pray and fasted for 40 days straight.
So I spent many years of my life training myself in fasting and praying. It was in my early twenties. I was on my way to become a fulltime pastor and had the luck to be able to take the time.
I lived by the following:
One hour per day, one night per week, one day a month and one week a year I praying.
One day a week and one week a year I fasted and only drank water and tea.
I lived up to about 80% of it. As I’m not really a morning person the hour in the morning usually turned into 30 minutes.
My plan for my prayer time looked somewhat liek this:
1/3 intercessory prayer
1/3 Reflection through my diary. I wrote a dialogue with Jesus.
1/3 intensive Bible work
Through perceveirance I managed to do this aswell about 80% of the time.
With all these things I always knew that I had to turn what God had showed me, during my quiet time, into action. Otherwise it is worthless.
The result of all the time?
During my twenties it was amazing! I really managed to solve many of my problems and questions at the time. I cried a lot during those times..it was very healing.
Until I became a mom and I had children! Then everything changed so radically, that I experienced a crisis. My prayer time decreased to zero and I thought my relationship to God was going to fall apart. Of course the joy and love to my kid where great and also made me very happt but what was I supposed to do about God?
I had to learn to manage with a lot less. Sometimes it was only 10 minutes in the morning. I learned to use the time I spent on the toilet to pray. I turned into a spiritual camel and it worked. But it really took years until my spirit got used to it and started becoming stronger again.
I would encourage you to really use your time before marriage and children to pray and study the bible. It helped me a lot to manage the times afterwards.
When I came into the phase of my life where I was constantly experiencing stress I found many other ways to spend time with God and also myself.
3. Can you give me some practical advice on how to create my time with God?
I need a lot of change other wise I get tired quickly and my time with God ends up being boring.
- I make myself a little quiet time area. Where I have a certain ritual like lighting a candle, hanging up a paper with a verse on it which I read and then talk to God about.
- One of my favourite habits is to write a dialogue with Jesus in my prayer diary. I can easily spend 2 hours on that. Because I plan my life with Jesus. I start by explaining my situation to God and asking him questions. I write down the answer that comes to my mind. It’s usually very moving and I can really feel that it’s coming from God. Then I answer again and that’s how the dialogue develops.
- Worhsip time can be really cool aswell. I either play guitar myself or I listen to a CD, both builds me up.
- I usually work with the bible before I hold a sermon or before I wright a blog like this. I also get a lot from it for my own life.
- Going on a walk with Jesus is great!(When the weather is nice) Just some time ago; after the first snow had fallen, I had an amazing time with my creator. I just thanked him for the beauty of these millions of little crystals.
- Having a coffe with Jesus-one of my favourites. Sometimes I sit down in a cafe in the city and in the morning after I get up it’s the first thing I do: I make a nice cup of coffee, sit down on my couch and talk to God about the coming day, in quiet. When I’m very tired I pray in tongues. I can easily fill 30-40 minutes with that.
Important with all of these tips: Plan them long-ranged! Don’t start once your feeling spiritually week. They’re supposed to be a set part of your schedule. Schedule longer times aswell; with at least one night stay. I call them “Monastery days” because I like to spend some quiet time at a monastery.
4. What does a longer time of several days of prayer look like?
The first monastery days I did where dissapointing, if not catastrophical. I got caught up in thought carousels and was terribly bored.
But then this plan helped me a lot:
Utensils: Bible, pen, paper, diary, colored pencils, CD or guitar
I note down the strengths and weeknesses of my life. What’s going well what isn’t and where do I want to be heading:
|Area of my life||Current situation||Wished situation||To do|
|Conflicts because of house work
Date night once a week
|House work is distrubuted evenly
|Make a new chore plan|
|Church work||2 days a week I work fort he church
The leadership team is working well
Nobody came to Jesus
|Somebody coming to Jesus each month||Talk to team about how we can improve this|
I develop a bible exercise to a topic that that intrigues me
Example: How do I develop an evangelization strategie so that every month somebody becomes a christian. I read how Jesus and the apostels did it in the bible. I then develop a couple of ideas how we could practically implement this.
I seperate the topics into work-related and personal.
After the bible work I pray again asking God what he wants me to change in my life and where I need to repent.
Go for a 2 hour walk and talk to Jesus about everything. I can empty my head and stay fit. After that I wright down what God wants me to cross out of my calender because it’s not that important. This is a very important step: Like in a closet I need to get rid of some of the old stuff sometimes.
When I have to make important decisions I do the same thing. I make a pros and cons list with Jesus and then decide.
Evening: I make a list of all the ideas and wishes that came up during the day. I pray about them for one and a half hours and write down the impressiosn God has given me.
- Day Morning:
I write a summary of my monastery days. Then I draw a sketch of it on paper: God and me, my life as it is and what I want it to look like. The drawing doesn’t have to be very good it just helps to see what really is important.
5. What are the biggest mistakes that you have made in your relationship with God?
My biggest mistakes where of religious nature. I often got caught up in thinking I didn’t do enough and I wasn’t enough for God. That often lead to me feeling miserable because I felt guilty and thought I needed to pray more in order to do a more effective work for God.
God had a lot of patience with me until I really understood that my relationship isn’t defined by the time I spend in prayer but by the attitude of my heart.
The right attitude has become my constant wish, pleasing God with what I do. And I know that he loves me and knows my weaknesses and forgives me my mistakes.
A great feeling of freedom and joy. Sometimes I leave this path and then I start feeling stressed out and annoyed but I also know how to get back on track.
That’s why I can answer the question from the title in one sentence:
How can I have a strong relationship with God despite my stressful life?
By rearranging my life until I have enough time for God and myself so I can go through life with love, joy and peace.
Now it’s your turn: How do you strengthen your relationship with God?