From: Money Sex and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press


Chapter 13


A daily time alone with God has always come hard for me. I don't mean that I ignore this spiritual discipline, it's just that a bit of time each morning is not good enough for me.

Where I Was

It takes me a full half hour just to quiet down enough to really get serious with God. I knew I needed to spend more time with Him, and my morning devotions were sort of like an "invocation" -- a nice thing to do each morning, but not really a serious effort at spirituality. It was my way of saying, "Well, Lord, here I am again; I'm still on Your side, and I pray You'll bless all the things I'm going to do for You today -- well, gotta go now and do them."

What I Tried First

I struggled with this thing for several years, finally concluding that what I needed to do was spend more time each day. I figured I could get up at 5:00 a.m. or so and spend a full hour or two with the Lord each day. Now, this is a good idea, and it works admirably for some, but it didn't work for me. The problem was my schedule -- most of the time it is so messed up that a regular time was impossible. Half of the time my schedule was under the control of other people -- hosts, ministerials, conventions, camps, and conferences. Though it works for many people, the "early to rise" solution didn't work for me. Yet I was still gravely dissatisfied with the time I set apart for pure devotion to God.

What Changed It All

Then a new thought struck. What if this was my wife I was trying to develop a deeper relationship with? I've never come from a conference and sat down with my wife to say, "I'm not satisfied with the depth of our relationship. Let's get up at 5:00 a.m. each morning and talk with each other." (We have a pretty good marriage, but I'm not sure it could sustain this!) Sure, I daily and systematically express my love and devotion to Sharon through little actions and words. We even set apart a "debriefing" time each day to catch up on each other's lives.

But I realized the thing that really made the priority statement to her was our "family days." In my thirties I began the practice of writing a big, large "F" on several days each month, designating them as "family days." These days were set aside to sneak away with Sharon, go on a walk, lazy around and share deeply with each other, and to spend the evening with the kids. They weren't highly organized or scheduled days, just days with which I would not allow anything to in to over-schedule. During these days we spend large amounts of time just sharing together about our developing lives and relationships with each other, the children, the church and God.

The parallel to my spiritual life was stunning to me. My daily time alone with God was important, to be sure. But what was lacking in my relationship with the Lord were large blocks of time dedicated exclusively to the development of our relationship.

Then I remembered an idea a friend of mine had shared a year or so earlier. Dwight, a successful youth pastor, told how he scheduled "blackout days." He shared how he took a black marker pen and literally blackened out an entire day from his calendar making it impossible to schedule anything else on that day. He had dedicated these days to developing his relationship with the Lord. The seed of this idea, which had been sitting back there for a year now began to sprout. I decided I needed a whole day to spend alone with God for the sake of our developing relationship.

The Solution

When I first began this discipline, I would set apart this day "as I needed it." When things got particularly frustrating, when I sensed my spiritual batteries were drained low, or when I faced an upcoming major spiritual challenge, I would slip away for a day alone with God. These days had such an influence on my life that I finally began scheduling them on a monthly basis. Here are some of the things I have learned about establishing the discipline of a periodic DAWG - "Day Alone With God."

Where To Go

When the weather is good, I like to go outside for my day alone with God. When I first began I still had children around the house all day. I would often do to a state park about fifteen miles from my home where I spent the day in the wooded area beside a large lake. I can't sit very long for anything, so being out of doors gives me an opportunity to get up and "walk and pray" when I got tired of sitting. Since I often take my DAWG during the week, a city park was my backup plan. There was a softball field which is completely abandoned through the week, and I would sometimes spend my day alone with God just outside the right field fence.

In the winter time, it was harder. There was a retreat center just an hour from my home which I used some during cold days. I have a friend in Michigan who uses the Primary age Sunday school classroom. (He says no one ever goes in a Primary Sunday School classroom during the week!) A pastor friend of mine spends his day alone with God in a parishioner's summer cottage which is graciously provided for him. I know one mother of a preschooler who drops her child off at a baby-sitter and takes off a half day at her own home each month for this discipline. Years ago I met a man in Pennsylvania who actually constructed a "prophet's chamber" up in the woods behind his house where he could spend his day alone with God. Seeing that "Prophet's chamber" long ago gave me a hidden dream -- to have one for myself. After more than a decade of moving from place to place for my DAWG my dream was fulfilled. A boy we taught in our midweek group years ago grew up to be a contractor and offered to build a farmhouse for us on our country land near Indianapolis. I shared my dream for some sort of attic hideaway for a DAWG and his face lit up. "I'll build it for you, let it up to me." He did, and I now have my own little heated hideaway tucked away in our attic. To have a reliable place makes this discipline much easier.

Let your imagination fly and think of the kind of place you could spend your DAWG. Before I had my "upper room" I even spend some entire days in my automobile. There a certain seclusion, privacy, and intimacy in automobile that's hard to find elsewhere. Maybe that sounds weird to you, but the question is, where could you go for a DAWG?

What To Take

1. Bible - Obviously, if you only take one thing, this is it.

2. Colored pencils/pens - I have found the absolute best time to do Bible marking is on a DAWG.

3. Note pad or paper - To jot down your insights.

4. Concordance - I usually forget this, but I generally regret not having it.

5. Lawn chair - If you're going to be outside.

6. Tape player - Occasionally edifying and worshipful music sets the mood for my DAWG.

7. A book or two - But be careful not to make the whole day a book-reading day.

8. Sweater or jacket - If you are an active person, sitting around most of the day usually gives you a chill.

9. Spiritual life notebook - To note insights and prayers records.

One thing you do not want to take is paperwork. If you're anything like me, you will almost always choose spiritual work over spiritual devotion. I love to produce, produce, produce. I generally measure the success of my day with "how much I got done." That's why I have to wrestle so much to get myself to do spiritual and devotional things. So I have to leave my work at the office or I find myself gravitating to my "to do" list and away from relationship development with the Lord.

There are only two exceptions I allow to this. First, I take a note pad, and when I think of something I need to do, I write it down and get it out of my mind. Second, if I am developing a vision for my ministry or planning my year's activity, I do this on my DAWG. I want these sorts of things to grow out of a time of devotion.

One other thing I often do not take is any sort of watch or clock. I am such a time-conscious person that I keep checking up to see "how I'm doing" throughout the day. It's better for me if I simply give the whole day to the Lord until dark.

What To Do

1. Read the Bible.

This is the perfect time to read great blocks of Scripture. Most of our Bible reading is in short spurts. We don't read anything else that way -- just the Bible. A DAWG gives us the chance to read entire books of the Bible, which is how they were meant to be read. Usually you can read a book through several times in one day, allowing its message and truth to saturate you in such a way as "snippet reading" never will. I always read with a pencil so I can scribble all over the margins. If my mind begins to wander or clog up, I read out loud. This usually focuses my thoughts back on the scripture in front of me. Once in a while, a topical study is fun to do. But I have to be careful not to use this time to prepare Sunday school lessons or a message. It is for me and God.

2. Fast.

Sometimes fasting will focus your spiritual energies more intensely. But if "visions of sandwiches dance in your head," fasting could actually divert your interest away from relationship development with the Lord. You must do what is best for you.

3. Pray.

Obviously the whole day is set aside to develop your relationship with the Lord. That means reading His Word, talking to Him, and listening to Him. I intersperse my Scripture reading with prayer. When my mind begins to wear out on Scripture reading, I spend a chunk of time chatting with the Lord. This is not a time for formal, fancy, cathedral-type praying. It is a time to be honest, frank, and simple in communication with God. It is a time for open confession, worshipful adoration, grateful thanksgiving, bold requests, and committed surrender.

When it's just you and God, the pauses in your prayer don't really matter. A DAWG is a perfect time to develop an extensive prayer list and pray through it. Unless you are a professional monk, you probably can't daily pray through all of the requests you have thought of. But a periodic DAWG allows for a more systematic approach to a longer list of prayer requests.

4. Write.

I don't know if you're like me, but I can't do anything without eventually writing something down. And I have found that unless I write it down, it is somehow incomplete. If you have fallen behind on your spiritual life journal, your DAWG is a perfect time to catch up.

Even if you never keep a journal, try keeping one only on your DAWG's over the next few years. Write down what's happening in your spiritual life. Write down your reflections on trials you are going through. Write down the temptations you are now facing and how you plan to overcome them. Write down people who have had major influence in your life. Make a list of the people whom you are probably influencing in their spiritual life. Write out your personal commitments to the Lord between this day and your next DAWG. Write letter to your spouse or someone else, sharing important matters with them. Write an evangelistic letter to some unsaved person. Write down scriptural truths which jumped out at you today. The chances are you'll remember most what you have written down.

5. Memorize scripture.

Most of us fail miserably at this spiritual discipline. Part of the reason is we try to cram it in along with everything else we're doing in our busy schedules. Setting aside an entire DAWG allows you to add a new scripture to your stock. It is completely feasible to memorize ten verses on one of these days, and remember it the rest of your life.

6. Meditate.

I use this word in both of its meanings. First, meditate on scripture -- that is, turn it over and over again in your mind thinking on it, like a cow chews its cud. Second, meditate in the sense of just plain relaxing/resting/thinking about nothing. If you are really exhausted, you might even doze off for awhile. Don't worry about this; just fall asleep with God's thoughts on your mind, and wake up the same way. During these times of quiet listening God often reveals His will to me. Perhaps you are a better listener asleep than when you are awake!

A DAWG can be a spiritual dynamo in your life. In the hectic rushed schedule of "doing God's work," it is so easy to allow our spiritual energy to drain out. An entire day blocked out each month to develop that close relationship with God, recharging your spiritual batteries is a great secret to keeping your spiritual edge. My only regret is that I did not discover this secret much sooner in my Christian walk.

What about you? Does taking an entire day off for "devotions" seem extreme? Or would you like to try this a few times? If you did, where could you go? When could you have your first day? Maybe even a half-day? If you don't start now, at about what age would you like to try this discipline?

 From: Money, Sex, and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
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