Feel stuck finding time for listening to God? Get unstuck right here and create good habits.
We all know that listening to God involves spending time with him. But if you’re reading this you’re probably thinking, “How do I spend more time with God, when there’s just so much to do?”.
A great way forward is to create good habits. Making a few simple lifestyle tweaks will help you move listening to God away from being an effort, and turn it into a habit.
Trust me, listening to God doesn’t have to feel like you have a mountain to climb; it can be as easy as a stroll through a meadow!
Change Your Lifestyle: Change Your Habits
I believe there are 3 keys to help us establish a lifestyle of listening to God.
Last time we discussed the first key: to seek a deeper desire for God. That’s because, when our heart’s desire changes, our mind begins to follow.
Over the next two posts, we’ll look at 2 more keys, which relate to each other and interlock with the first. Today we’ll discuss something that should be easy, but isn’t: how to create good habits.
Me And My Habits
When it comes to creating good habits, I’m erratic. In some areas of life I can be very disciplined, but in others, terrible.
Yes, I get up in the morning, I have my breakfast and brush my teeth like the rest of us. But that’s just what I learned to do when I was a child. They are all tasks that are so routine, so rote, that they’re fully assimilated into my life – a part of me and who I am.
But that gives me some questions:
- What happens when, as an adult, I want to establish something new?
- How can I set up the routines I need to stay focused on the things that matter most?
I find myself asking those questions more frequently as I get older. And being a bit of a “productivity nut”, I’m always looking for ways to enable me to do more in less time. (Edit: That’s why I developed the 4 Steps to help grow my prophetic gift)
The Habit Of Listening To God
For me, these questions become even more important when it comes to spending time with God and listening to him.
If I can create truly integrated habits in a similar manner to those learned in my childhood, then getting into the Lord’s presence can become the path of least resistance. Listening to God translates into a simple joy, rather than something I have to expend huge amounts of energy on every day.
Of course, there’s a place for sacrifice and loving the Lord “with all your strength” (Luke 10:27), particularly when we don’t really feel up to it. But that’s not expected to be our daily reality.
The normal Christian life is not about “screwing our courage to the sticking place”, as Lady Macbeth might have it, but about being – and staying – intimate with our loving Father.
Create Good Habits For Listening To God
What kind of habits could I create that will help me to listen to God?
One example is a prayer I learnt a few years ago, which likens my body, soul and spirit to the different parts of God’s temple and offers them to him “as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
The details and theology of this prayer are outside of the scope of this article, but I’ve prayed it consistently, pretty much every day, ever since I heard about it. It has changed me and it helps align my attitudes and purposes with the Lord every day.
Here are a few more examples you may find helpful. Some may be obvious, others perhaps less so:
- Pray or read the bible every morning, before heading off to work or college
- Regularly acknowledge God and his presence in the “now”
- Remind yourself of who he is
- Ask for him to speak and listen for the answer, in a spare moment
- Find places and times where you can be open to him
I’m sure you can think of others. For further inspiration, you may like to read a FREE chapter from my book How To Hear God’s Voice.
Of course, all the above are good and laudable ways that might help us get close to God, but we have a problem:
How do we take each of those actions and make it into a habit?
How To Create Good Habits For Listening To God
Others have done a much better job of explaining how to form new habits than I could (see 5 Strategies For Changing Bad Habits and Lifehacker for more).
However, this will serve as a summary of what I have found helpful in my journey into God:
- Pick just one
Create one new habit at a time!
You can’t create multiple habits at once. Seriously, we’re just not made that way.
However, it is possible to focus on one thing for a period of time and turn that into a habit.
Once you’ve done that and you’re satisfied that it really is a habit, you can move on to the next.
Don’t spend hours (or days) procrastinating over which habit you want to set up first, or trying to plan things out in copious detail.
Planning can be useful but often turns into an excuse not to do anything.
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, just do it!
- Set your expectations
There’s a tradition that it takes 21 days to create a new habit.
Modern research seems to indicate that it could take a lot longer: anything from 4 – 6 weeks (see Michael Hyatt’s post Make A New Habit Stick).
You need to be realistic: it’s likely to be tough after the initial buzz.
In the first 3-5 days, you’ll probably feel good about starting out on a new adventure. Later on, the power of inertia kicks in and it can become a real struggle – another reason to tackle one habit at a time.
I’ve heard the process likened to the launch of a space rocket. Your natural tendency is to slip back backwards through “habit gravity”, as follows:
- The first stage involves a massive injection of power to get off the ground, but the “feel good” aspect of a new thing starts you off well.
- The next part gets harder: the initial excitement wanes, but the same level of power is needed to continue the climb.
- The effort continues until you eventually reach escape velocity. In this stage, you may even find yourself looking back to the ground and thinking you were better off back there.
- Finally, you enter orbit where the habit is formed. The task becomes easy, requiring only minor course corrections to stay on track.
- Make it a “no-brainer”
Prepare for tasks in advance, to make things easy for yourself.
You want to make it more difficult to not do the task than to do it.
For example, if you want to read your bible every morning, put it out with your clothes so you have to pick it up, in order to get dressed.
If you want to remember to pray when you get in the car, then stick a post-it note on your rearview mirror or steering wheel.
- Track your progress
While you’re going through this process, you need as much encouragement as you can get.
Keep a running tally of how many days you’ve been going so far.
Some people find the best way to do this is to make a few lines (or one long line) of boxes on a piece of paper, that you can tick off each day.
Your objective is simple: don’t break the line!
The longer the line gets, the better the visual indicator of your progress and the easier it is to keep going.
So, we’ve covered two of our keys to establish a lifestyle of listening to God.
Tune in next time to find out what the third key is!
In the meantime, let me know what you think:
What are your favourite routines that help you listen to God and how did you turn them into habits?
Leave a comment below.