If you are in my stage of life, feeling stretched for time is pretty much inevitable. I have four sons between the ages four and fifteen, a busy teaching schedule, and frequent out-of-town travel commitments. I also lead a small group and help teach Sunday school at church. Between trying to squeeze date nights with my wife, a little one-on-one time with my sons, and a couple of times a week for exercise, I don’t have much margin in my schedule. I could go on and on about how busy I am, but my guess is that you are probably just as busy or busier than I am.  

Spending time in God’s Word and in prayer is often the first thing to go when we get busy. We hate to admit it, but if we are honest, when we have to get up early to finish a presentation for an important meeting or when an unfinished project is looming, prayer can sometimes feel unproductive. We know we should find time to spend with God, but it often slips through the cracks. But over the last few years, I have found a few key rhythms that have helped me find time for prayer, even when life is especially busy.

We are Not Justified by Bible Reading Alone

Before I share what I’ve learned, it is important to remember that you are not accepted by God based on how many chapters of the Bible you’ve read today or how many missionaries you have on your prayer list. We are justified by faith in Christ alone. God accepts us on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, not on how many chapters of the Old Testament we’ve read this week (see Romans 3:21–31).

This does not mean we should shrug our shoulders and give up. After all, if we are raised with Christ, then we’ll “set our hearts on things above” (Colossians 3:1). We should pray for and actually experience a growing affection for Jesus and desire to be with him, and the starting place for all of this is to cultivate a growing desire for the Word of God. Even when life is busy. But to spend time with God, we are going to need a plan for reading Scripture and we are going to need to get help praying.

Making a Plan

When life is busy, nothing important will get done if we don’t make a plan for it. The infamous “tyranny of the urgent” will squeeze everything else out until we have nothing left. So if you want to spend time in the Word and prayer, you need to plan for it. The great news is, there are many great Bible reading plans out there. Or you can come up with your own plan.

 Everyone is different, and you need to find what works for you and your schedule, but here is my current plan. Depending on the day of the week, I get up between 5-6 am so I have enough time to make coffee and then sit down to read and pray before my kids (or at least most of them) are awake. This means I need to make sure I get enough sleep the night before. Or it means that I have to be willing to sacrifice a little bit of sleep if I want to stay up later watching The West Wing with my wife on Netflix.

Reading through the Bible in a year is a great goal, but if you aren’t reading the Bible regularly right now, just getting in the Word five days per week would be a great place to start. Pick a book or a section of Scripture and try to read a chapter every day. I would also encourage you to read the Psalms regularly as well. Regardless of where you are at, try to find time to read a little bit every day. You might be surprised at how much you can get through if you just commit to read the Bible ten minutes per day. That’s about 60 hours for the year. By most estimates, it takes about 75 hours to read through the Bible aloud, so if you are reading silently, you might just make it through the whole thing. Whether you do or not, planning ahead and carving out ten minutes every day to read Scripture is probably a realistic goal.

Get Help in Praying

I also need help praying, and so do you. God’s people have always needed help praying. This is why God gave us the Psalms! So when you need help praying, the first place you can go is to the Psalter. Read the Psalms prayerfully and let them launch you into other prayers.

But I also find help reading the prayers of others. I am a happy Baptist, but I use The Book of Common Prayer to shape my morning devotional time. The structure and prayer of morning prayer in the BCP makes things easy for me. I don’t have to think about how to reinvent the wheel every morning. I use the ACNA’s new translation of the BCP and the Daily Office downloads from Mission of St. Clare and sometimes the Daily Prayer app. The structure and written prayers often guide me into other prayers, but some mornings, I pretty much stick to the script and still walk away encouraged.

There are many other great resources for written prayer, including The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers and one of my family’s favorites, Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey. If you are looking for a book to motivate you towards more regular prayer, I’d highly recommend A Praying Life by Paul Miller.

There are more resources out there I could mention, but to be honest, there are some days where I have to be out the door early or sleep later than I intend, and I don’t spend time with God in the morning. He doesn’t love me any less on those days. But I miss it when I don’t have time in the Word and in prayer in the morning, and I’m always thankful when I do spend this time with God. Wherever you are at in life, with a little planning ahead, you can make use of these resources that will help you cultivate the regular rhythms of prayer and Scripture reading.  

Chris Bruno is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, and teacher who desires to give his life to helping others see the centrality of Jesus in all the Scriptures for the glory of God. He has served at Northland International University, Cedarville University, and Trinity Christian School in Kailua, HI. He has written and co-written several books and is a fellow in the St. John Fellowship of the Center for Pastor Theologians. Chris and his wife Katie have been married since 2001 and have four sons who love to be outdoors playing ball or pretending to be superheroes, all while wrestling their dad.