Since God is everywhere, is the space where we meet with Him of any consequence? In this age of freedom, does it really matter where we journal, pray, and study our Bible? On the surface, the answer may be, “No.” Recently, however, I have come to the conclusion that the location of our quiet time with God makes a great deal of difference. I invite you to discover with me why dedicated devotional space matters, and what factors make that space effective.
Why Devotional Space Matters
Our goal in spending time with God is to know Him better, deepen our faith, and grow in the fruit of the spirit. Spiritual growth does not completely depend on our devotional space. But our choice of where we meet with God can help facilitate that growth.
- Is it hard to find time to spend with God regularly? Consistency helps develop habits. While we want our time with God to be more than mere habit, that habit does help during dry seasons when we don’t feel like praying or studying. A consistent place, along with a consistent time, helps develop that habit. And the habit takes the effort out of remembering to do it.
- Is it hard to retain what you’ve read in your Bible, or to stay awake while praying? Lying down on a bed or sitting curled in a recliner may be super comfy, but may also be too relaxing for alertness. Spaces that allow for good posture and deep breathing may help with focus, which is necessary for study.
- Is it hard to express your worship, or unburden your heart to God because someone might see or hear you? If everyone is asleep, the kitchen table or living room couch may seem alone enough. Mentally, however, they are still public spaces which could be invaded at any time. Escaping self-consciousness may require a private, more secluded devotional space.
Factors that Make Devotional Space Effective
As you’ll see, these three factors when choosing a devotional space make a huge difference in facilitating meaningful, undistracted times of Bible study, meditation, and prayer.
- Conducive to Study
- Quiet and Alone
Rediscovering the Importance of Dedicated Devotional Space
During a phone conversation a few months ago, my brother asked if I had a specific place for Bible reading, prayer, and journaling. This simple question catapulted me into a journey of discovery, or perhaps re-discovery, of my need for a dedicated devotional space.
Ever since my husband and I got married eight years ago, my space for quiet time has been fluid. Sometimes I’ve studied at the dining room table. On pleasant summer mornings I might take my Bible and journal and sink into one of the Adirondack chairs on the front porch to be refreshed by the Word and the outdoors. On occasion, I’ve attempted to read and pray in bed. But more often than not, I curled up at one end of the couch with a blanket, my Bible, and a cup of tea.
I have read and journaled and prayed in all these locations, and more. Yet I was always on edge, straining to not accidentally wake the children. Too often I was disturbed by my husband getting up, the baby waking prematurely, or my daughter coming in to pounce on me. (Even with family, it feels awkward to have someone walk into the room while you are kneeling at the sofa, praying.) These places were convenient, but not ideal.
But it hadn’t always been so.
Consistent Devotional Space
In previous chapters of life, I HAD had one specific place where I held my quiet time with God:
- As a teenager, newly on fire for the Lord, I studied and journaled at the corner desk my mother had built for my basement bedroom. I knelt to pray by my bed morning and night. That routine gave structure to a rich first couple years in my walk with the Lord!
- When I taught English in Kazakhstan, our school furnished each bedroom in our apartment with a desk for us to do our lesson planning. My desk also became my place for Bible reading and journalling both of those years. Away from the glut of Christian resources available in English back home, my spiritual food those two years came almost exclusively from my quiet times with God.
- Upon my return to the States, I rented a tiny attic apartment in an old brick house. There, early in the morning before school, I showered, brewed tea, and sat down at my bedroom desk to read my Bible, journal, and sip my tea. That was an exceptionally difficult year of teaching, so I often prostrated myself on the floor begging for grace and strength to survive the day. God met me there and provided what I needed, both in grace for the day and words of encouragement.
The consistent theme through all these years, from my teens to my thirties, was the desk in the bedroom. AND, the accompanying, consistent theme of rich times of fellowship with God. The more I think about it, the years I felt most spiritually vibrant were those years when I had a dedicated space for meeting with God through Bible reading, meditation, journaling, and prayer.
Conducive to Study
Later, as I processed with a friend, the key was not the bedroom. It was the desk. The bedroom provided privacy so I could relax, but the desk provided a defined space conducive to being alert, focused, and able to think—and work. I was seated, upright, and able to breathe deeply. The firm, flat surface of the desk allowed me to read comfortably, or to spread out multiple books (a Bible and a journal and sometimes my concordance). My pens were in the drawer (and a ruler if I wanted to underline a verse).
Quiet and Alone
Recognizing the importance of a consistent place conducive to study, I considered my options, but resisted making any changes. Our small bedroom offered nowhere to sit. Though my old desk was now in the partially finished basement, I did NOT want to move my devotional time where I’d feel like I was descending into a dungeon every morning. So I gave up.
A couple weeks after the phone call with my brother, I had another “aha!” moment, urging me to act.
One night I went to bed early and read. With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray is an old book worth reading and re-reading. It had greatly deepened my prayer life 10 years ago, and now I was thirsty for the refreshment I could glean from a second reading. (I highly recommend this book!)
The chapter I read that night was entitled, “Alone.” Expounding on Matthew 6:6, Murray’s chapter convicted me with longing for that precious, undisturbed time with my Lord, that these last eight years have been so hard to come by.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:6, emphasis mine
The author emphasized how our Father blesses time stolen away in secret to spend with Him. He promises REWARD for spending time with Him in secret!
Jesus himself slipped away by himself to pray in remote areas. Even the perfect Son of God needed to be alone!
I was especially moved by Murray’s suggestion that my failures to pray well should not keep me away from time with God. The Lord is waiting for me—and you–just to come and spend time with Him!
After reading that chapter, I KNEW I needed to create a space to be alone, just me and God.
Though I had resisted using the basement because of its cold feel, ugly, unfinished ceiling, and cluttered state, I resolved to make it work. (How many heroes of the faith, down through the ages, were spiritually strong because they had beautiful, comfortable spaces in which to meet with God? Many communed with God in prison cells!)
Here, I had the freedom to choose to make this imperfect basement a special, hallowed space for meeting with God, so that I could flourish and grow in my Father’s Presence.
Newfound Space, Renewed Grace
Once conviction came and resolve filled my heart, it wasn’t that hard. I moved the sewing machine off my desk, wiped down the dusty surface, cleared up a few bits of surrounding clutter, and plugged in the lamp. I would have to choose to ignore the rest of the room. But with renewed eagerness to spend time in the Word and in prayer, I knew my Father would give me strength to do that!
I gathered my Bible, my binder of study materials (I’m currently participating in BSF’s Genesis study), my personal journal and my prayer journal, and stacked them neatly on the desk for the next morning. Resolutely, I set my alarm for 6:00 am.
And do you know what?
It only took a day or two before I was loving my renewed, quiet, relaxed, truly alone time with God. In fact, I was going to bed EXCITED to wake up and meet with Him the next morning!
Now, when the alarm goes off, I quietly get out of bed, brew the coffee, dress for the day, and tiptoe down the squeaky stairs to the basement. The desk lamp provides a soft light, and the fleecy throw I keep on the chair warms my shoulders. In that holy space, I am surrounded by God’s Presence and His enduring Word, and the unsightly wires and pipes in the ceiling and the clutter in the room fade into the background.
Before my brother posed the question, I had never given much thought to the matter of devotional space. For many years I had a consistent place for Bible reading—out of habit—without thinking of its importance.
Now I know that a place that is both quiet and private, and suitable for study, is of utmost importance for meeting with God.
Our personal needs or preferences may vary when it comes to Bible study, prayer, and journaling. And many times we make do with what we’ve got because we don’t have a choice. But when we are able, we NEED to create as consistent, as conducive to study, and as private a place as possible for meeting with God, undistracted. It truly makes a difference.
What about you? What kind of spaces have been the most meaningful, or the most helpful to communing with God? How has God rewarded the time you have spent in secret with Him? I’d love to hear your comments!
For further reading and study, here are some good places to start:
Bible Study Fellowship International — Check out their available studies and find a group near you (mostly virtual this year).
With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray — This book requires a careful reading, but the author’s thoughtful insights on Jesus’ teachings makes it worth the effort.
Prayer Closet: How to Create One and Why You Should by Crystal Reddick — This blog post presents some helpful tips for creating space for prayer.