Have you ever sat in a Bible class, in awe of the grace and knowledge of your brothers and sisters (2Pe 3:18)? Or heard a prayer in worship that you knew came from the heart of “a righteous person” (Jam 5:16)? The more you get to know these good people, the more you will probably realize how much of that deep faith, hope, and love were developed outside the assembly. When you visit their homes, you will most likely find a well-worn and well-marked Bible, and will come to know a heart filled with prayers and songs.
As I try to point out at the beginning of each year, every Christian (and every Christian family) needs to set aside time each day for prayer and communion with God. And this means learning to “pray without ceasing” (1Th 5:17), to search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), and to praise God in song (Jam 5:13), devoting ourselves to the life he has called us to lead (John 14:6).
One of the most poignant reminders of these themes comes from a song in most of our hymnals, “Take Time to Be Holy” by William D. Longstaff (1882). The main point of the song is well worth our attention: it takes time to become holy, and since God has called us to his own holiness (1Pe 1:16), we should set aside time each day to make sure we are working toward his goal for our lives (1Th 5:16-18).
I’m certainly no expert on how to do that, but here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years, which may help you develop your own healthy habits and to re-center your soul. In other words, to take time to become holy:
But don’t just skim, instead let the Scriptures shape you. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Look. Listen. Receive” (An Experiment in Criticism, p. 19). Don’t just read the words on the page, think about how God is revealing himself through those words—through stories, poems, and speeches. Try to picture where your passage stands in the big picture of the Bible—creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. And try to imagine what all of that meant to the writer of that book and to that very first audience. When you do these things well, you’ll find that you’re not just reading Scripture, the Scriptures are reading you.
Of course, sometimes we all need some help; a “Phillip” to come alongside us as our guide (Acts 8:31). Here are three resources I really enjoy:
However you decide to read each day, pick up a good Bible or study Bible collecting dust nearby, and put it to good use. Commit yourself to reading Scripture daily, reflecting on what God reveals to us through his word, praying and singing through the text, and living it out each day of your life. It’s not about finding the perfect reading plan, or the perfect prayer routine (though both can be helpful), but about drawing closer to the one who is Perfect. And don’t worry about how much progress you are making each day. Just remember: you’re in it for the long haul. After all, it takes time to be holy.