“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” — Mark 1:35
Recently I watched the 1990s movie Twister about a group of scientists who chase tornadoes to better understand them. The plot can be summed up rather succinctly: chase a tornado, chase a tornado, chase a tornado … catch the tornado … run! Run from the tornado, run from the tornado, run from the tornado!
I can’t help but think: Is this not an accurate picture of our lives? We’re chasing the kids, chasing the career, chasing the promotion, chasing the diploma; then we’re running from that difficult conversation, avoiding that family member, not making eye contact with the boss … running from the tornado.
This kind of life reveals a problem that goes a lot deeper than just being busy. Our hurry on the outside is evidence of a bigger issue on the inside. Staying busy has become for many of us a defense mechanism to keep us from ever facing the deeper questions of life. Why am I really here? What am I supposed to do with the time I have? What do I actually believe about eternity, and how should that change the way I live?
Too often, the distance we feel toward God has nothing to do with him. He has been knocking on our door, waiting there for us, but the noise on the inside is so loud that we can’t hear his voice.
When I was a new Christian, someone introduced me to the idea of quiet time—a time of your day, free from distraction, specifically devoted to prayer and Bible reading. Some call it “daily devotions” or “time with God.” It’s not that the rest of your day is time without God, but this specific time is focused, planned, and set aside.
The Gospel of Mark records a story about when Jesus spent an entire evening praying for the sick and demon-possessed, and the whole city came out to see him. After this long, exhausting night, Mark tells us what Jesus did the following morning: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
This isn’t the only time we read of Jesus doing this. In fact, the gospel accounts make it clear that disappearing in the morning was his regular routine. After a long night of exhausting ministry, Jesus didn’t veg out or sleep in. Instead, he got up very early, while it was still dark, and met with his Father alone.
What I call the principle of the first can be seen throughout Scripture. Whatever you do first has huge implications for the rest of what you will do (Matthew 6:33). Making time for God first thing in the morning is an expression of your priorities. It’s a way to tell God with your actions that he is first in your life.
All deep relationships require uninterrupted time spent together, and relationship with God is no exception. Many followers of Jesus expect to grow spiritually with five minutes a day of prayer and a three-sentence devotional, and then they wonder why God feels distant and his direction seems unclear. Those who want to find God must find time. Time meditating on his truth, listening for his voice, and learning to quiet your busy mind.
I’ve found that one hour alone with God is a helpful goal. For one thing, it’s long enough that it will completely disrupt your life. There is no way to just squeeze in an hour every morning. You have to plan for it, cancel other things for it, and go to bed earlier for it. It will be disruptive, and that’s sort of the point. It is a declaration to God that he is your greatest priority.
What if you tried this for the next thirty days? What if you rearranged your morning routine and put God first, before and above everything else? What could happen—in your relationships, in your career, in your own soul—if you took this challenge to draw near to God? This one change in your routine is the front door to an entirely new way of living. It’s the first of our seven habits.
Habit 1: Spend the first hour of your morning alone with God.
Father, I choose to seek you with all my heart. I am willing to rearrange my routine so that I can make relationship with you the first priority in my life. Help me, meet me, change me, in Jesus’s name.