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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Did You Meme that? - Morning Bible Reading


Psalms 119:148  Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

[This meme says, "Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him." - Hudson Taylor]


The idea has been around for a long time that the "best" time of day to read one's Bible and pray is early in the morning. I've heard things along this line all of my life. It influenced me as a young person and I spent some years getting up very early to have my Bible reading and prayer time. I don't regret that time by any means, but I was not "more spiritually minded" because I did it. In fact, I was pretty un-spiritually minded for much of that time. I grew and learned a lot, but I also thought a lot of myself and my diligence to be "godly" at that time. The idea that morning is the "right" time for personal devotions was so entrenched in me that I still sometimes fight the feeling of guilt when I don't read my Bible until later in the day or in the evening.

I think that this idea came partly from verses like Psalms 63:1 - O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; This is a good verse and certainly it's good to seek God early. But, as we'll see later in this same Psalm, David also thought on the Lord in the night.

NOTE: It is suspect at best to take one or two verses and build up a system of "godly living" based upon them, especially when one doesn't take other scripture into consideration. In some situations we could say it is downright dishonest, and in this case I'd suggest it is often self-serving.

I don't know when I first came to realize that there is nothing in the Bible that says we have to read our Bibles early in the morning - that that is the "most spiritual" time to read it. I do remember really thinking about this issue some years ago when I was hearing some conflicting things that made me crystallize my thoughts about it.  The truth is, it just isn't there. It has been encouraged by a lot of "great Christians" and repeated by many pastors and teachers. It has been practiced by some "great Christians" and has been thought to be the source of their power. But, the scripture doesn't clearly and specifically say that we are "more spiritual" if we read it in the morning.

I had to stop and think when a family friend said he just couldn't read his Bible in the morning. He suffered from severe "morning brain" and was so fuzzy then that he couldn't concentrate and get anything out of it. Reading at night, however, worked well for him because his mind was more focused and alert.

My own dad has done his Bible reading primarily in the evening for a long time. He has almost always been a "night-owl" type of person and is more alert in the evening and even late at night than he is in the morning.

I myself wasn't able to deal with rising early when my physical limitations became prohibitive. I still have to let myself sleep-in in the morning sometimes because I'm simply too tired to get up and function properly at an early hour, let alone try to get up and read my Bible with any attentiveness.

I'm sure there are mothers and others who hit the ground running, so the speak, in the mornings and just don't have time to sit down and read the word without distraction until later in the day.

Does this make us bad Christians? Are we less spiritual because of this? While some Christians would say "no", the exaltation of morning Bible reading and prayer is still strongly felt, as proven by the two memes I've chosen to show here.  [Note: I do not know if Hudson Taylor actually wrote or said the above quote since there are so many quotes attributed to various people which they never said. However, it is in keeping with what I have read about him myself.]

In the Psalm 119:148 (above) the psalmist said that he stayed awake into the late hours of the night meditating upon God's word. Obviously he didn't think it was a bad time to read or study the scripture.

Psalms 55:17  Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

David prayed in the evening, morning, and middle of the day. He didn't think that early morning prayers were more "spiritual" or that they made him a better worshiper of Jehovah. He did all three. Some people have suggested that early morning prayers are the most sacrificial and the most spiritual.

This brings up one reason why I think people believe that early morning Bible reading and prayer is more "godly".

We read in Colossians 2:20-23,  Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,  (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

I am going to tell you what I understand this to mean and you may do with it as you will. I believe this passage is talking about the commandments, ordinances (rules), and doctrines of men - not God. The point I see is that all these rules about touching and handling are the ideas of men and not the commandments of God. The reason that they seem "godly" to us is because they have a show of wisdom - not real and actual wisdom from God, but human wisdom which says that if you subject your will and humble yourself and neglect the body (get up early in the morning) and don't satisfy the flesh you are more spiritual. In short, it is about outward appearances.

That is exactly what we are talking about with this subject - the idea that subjecting one's flesh to the difficulty of getting up at a very early hour to read God's word and pray makes one a better Christian because only people who "really love God" would do such a thing. Sadly, and I say this from personal experience, there are many people who will do this to prove to themselves, others, and God that they are "spiritual". They feel "godly" because they denied the flesh in a way that others are not doing. In short, it is a form or symptom of religious scrupulosity - going through outward motions that are admired by man to prove one's worthiness, spirituality, or to show denial of the flesh for the purpose of justifying oneself before God. 1 Samuel 16:7  ...the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

Psalms 63:5-6  My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:  When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

David remembered God when he was on his bed and he meditated upon God in the night. I am sure there are people who would say that if you are "really spiritual" you shouldn't be lying in bed thinking about God, you should be up, and preferably on your knees. In fact, I've heard someone say that it's wrong to pray while lying in bed. Granted, if you go to sleep this might be a problem if you really wanted to pray about something. On the other hand, I'd rather go to sleep talking to the Lord than worrying about the things I need to do or the government or whatever. Just sayin'...

Let's not miss verse 5, though. David compares thinking of God on his bed in the night to a rich feast and he says he praised the Lord with his mouth and was joyful while doing so. Friend, that was not a little token thought before he drifted off to sleep. This sounds like a warm, deep experience that filled him with the joy of the Lord. Obviously he didn't think that it was "unspiritual" to do this at night!

Ecclesiastes 11:6  In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

This verse makes me think of Jesus' parable of the sower and how the seed is the word. Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

We don't know when we plant physical seeds which will grow - those sown in the morning or those sown in the evening. So it is with our exposure to scripture. Sometimes we take away something that really sinks in and bears fruit and other times we miss the obvious. Sow regularly and sow at different times. See which works best for you. If it's morning, fine. But, if the word of God sown in your heart prospers more when it is sown at night, then do that! Neither time is better than the other, it's the fruit that counts.

[This meme says, "The secret to a happy life is giving God the first part of your day, the first priority to every decision and the first place in your heart."]

Both of the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel experienced receiving prophecy in both the morning and the evening. The Lord Himself didn't prefer one time over the other. He gave revelations of Himself at both times. He can reveal Himself to us through His word at either time as well.

Ezekiel 33:22  Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.

Daniel 8:26  And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.

Isaiah sought the Lord in the night and "early".

Isaiah 26:9  With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night the Lord didn't rebuke him for not coming early in the morning. He didn't shame him for not seeking Him at a "better" or "more spiritual" time. He met with him when he came and He expounded some wonderful truth to him.

John 3:1-2  There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

It really isn't so much about when we meet with Him as what we seek to receive when we do. God isn't looking for people who are "so spiritual" that they will get up early in the morning to prove their zeal. He is looking for something quite different from that.

John 4:23-24  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

In Proverbs 1 wisdom says that those who refused her will not find her when they seek her early. Proverbs 1:28  Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: But, in Proverbs 8 we see that she loves those that love her and those that seek her early will find her. Proverbs 8:17  I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. From what I can see, the meaning of the word early here is not exclusively in the sense of early in the morning. It also entails the idea of earnestness and in a timely manner. But, most importantly, we see from these two passages that it is not about the time as much as it is about the attitude and the desire of the heart - a willingness to attain wisdom. As we've seen from other passages, the time frame is not that significant with the Lord as far as the hour of the day is concerned.  The point is to seek the Lord, now. Don't put it off, don't neglect it, don't wait for the "right time of day."

Matthew 7:7-8  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, this is a wonderful post. I SO appreciated the thoughts you shared here. If lying on bed and seeking the Lord is not a good thing, then I would be in big trouble. I do SO much meditating and talking to the Lord AND listening to His still, small voice, while in just that position. I have insomnia, and I have lost count of the nights I have finally came to a place of peace and the ability to drift off to sleep all because of this praying and spending time with the Lord. Sometimes it is the only way I can find peace to drift off to sleep. I do not believe it has anything at all to do with the position of our praying or the time of day, as you have so adequately articulated here. I think it has everything to do with the heart and the attitude of the heart. I am so thankful and glad God understands. God bless you, dear friend. I appreciate you so much!

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    1. Dear Cheryl, I'm so glad this encouraged you! I have had insomnia in the past at times so I can relate to your situation! For my own experience I've found that many times when I stop thinking about all the other things and focus on the Lord He will allow me to drift off to sleep before long, although that isn't always the case. I'm so thankful that we don't have to waste that time but can spend it in prayer or communing with the Lord. :-)

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  2. What an encouraging post! As a mother of two little ones I find it easier to read at night - sometimes we do as a family with our bedtime stories. And somedays we read during the day, while the kids eat or color. I wish I could say we do so every day, but one day we'll get there I hope. Thanks for your encouraging words!
    Blessings,
    Bibi

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    1. Bibi, I'm so glad this was encouraging to you! Thank the Lord for that. It is a blessing that He does not put so many requirements upon us as humans do. We just have to remember what He does require and not feel guilty about the expectations of others. Doing what works for your family is the best way to seek the Lord.

      I remember my own mother sometimes saying as she sat down to the evening meal, "This is the first time I've sat down all day!" :-) I'm sure she faced a similar challenge as you do. My own family didn't manage Bible reading every single day for all the years I lived at home. Sometimes were better than others, but we were never perfect about it and it wasn't always at the same time of day. In later years our family Bible time and prayer were almost always in the evening.

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