When I first began college, I was very ambitious. I had made up my mind that I was going to try to read seven chapters from the New Testament, seven chapters from the Old Testament, memorize at least one or two verses every day, and read a Bible related book as often as possible! This didn’t even consider the fact that I was taking seventeen hours for my first semester, which included other Bible classes with readings and passages to memorize as well! Either way, I thought I had made the perfect plan for my spiritual growth!

Guess what! The plan was going great until about day two. It didn’t take me very long to fail to keep the overwhelming schedule I had set for myself. I was barely even reading one chapter from the Bible each day, nonetheless fourteen.

I began to feel guilty. Why was I not growing as a Christian? Why couldn’t I keep up with this routine? Was I not devoted enough? Why was I being so lazy? Why didn’t I seem to have the drive to study more? Did I not love God enough?

Do you ever feel this way? You want to be a faithful Christian, someone who leaves everything to follow JesusĀ yet you can’t even stick to the 365-Day Bible plan you started at the beginning of the year? What about your prayer life? How often do you end your day only to realize you have barely gone to the Father in prayer? What about your service? You want to be a servant. You really do intend to reach out to certain people, but it just never seems to happen. You feel so driven, but when you go and try to implement these things in daily living, it seems so, well, impractical.

When I look back to my early years of college I realize that I was asking myself the wrong questions. Was I really a lazy, un-devoted Christian because I couldn’t keep up with the schedule I set? No, I simply was not ready for that amount of intense study. In other words, I set my expectations too high.

If we are going to grow in our faith each day (2 Peter 1:5-9), we need to set realistic goals. I am not going to sugarcoat it’Christianity is not easy. Let me repeat that. Christianity is not easy. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 that choosing to follow Him is like choosing to walk a very narrow way that is extremely difficult and few are able to actually do it.

Christianity is hard, but sometimes we make it harder than it is meant to be by setting unrealistic expectations and goals. Our relationship with God becomes a burden. This isn’t the way it is supposed to be (I John 5:3). Yet in our busy, stressed-out culture it sometimes seems this way. How can we make Bible study, prayer and service to others more practical? Start setting more realistic and practical goals.

Practical Bible Study

I have heard of many older Christians who read an unbelievable amount of scripture each day. Some read through the New Testament monthly by reading nine chapters a day, and I have heard of others who devote hours of reading as much of the text as possible each day.

How do you get to this point? It is very likely that if you try to read that much each day, you will not stick to it. Start small. Start off with what is practical for you. That might be five chapters a day for some, others might start with one chapter a day and then still others may rather focus on only a few verses each day.

Whatever you decide to do, start off small and then build up. If you start out with a chapter a day, next month try and read two chapters a day and keep adding more as you build up this habit. Just remember, the purpose is not to see how much scripture you can read, but developing the ability to read scripture and apply it to your life to become more like Jesus (2 Tim. 2:15; James 1:22).

Practical Prayer

A friend of mine told me about an older couple who had devoted their lives to mission work. He said that he had lunch with them one day and they seemed very tired. To his amazement they had not slept that entire night because they spent it in fervent prayer to God! When I heard this I was inspired! I wanted to have that kind of prayer life! How do you implement that intense of a prayer life to your own? Again start small.

There are some really cool apps that are great for helping you keep yourself accountable. My favorite is called Echo. You can download it for free on the App Store. It is designed to help you organize your prayer life, so you can be intentional. You can set reminders about different things and people you want to pray for. I would definitely recommend it. It has been a blessing to my prayer life.