I vividly remember one of my childhood Sunday School teachers talking to my class about our time spent with God. “When is the best time of day to do your devotions?” she asked.
After quickly raising my hand, I replied, “Whatever time works best for you.”
“No, that is not correct,” she said. “The best time is the morning. You should start your day with God.”
While I agree that we should make spending time with God a priority, I’ve never thought that meant we all had to get up earlier in the morning. And actually, my grumpy-morning-zombie-self usually better exhibits the fruit of the spirit throughout the day when I get 20 minutes of extra sleep, then if I spend 20 minutes soul searching the pages of Scripture in the morning with a cup of coffee.
Now, some people delight to watch the first rays of the sun splash the sky and feel refreshed to sit in the quiet stillness of the morning. These are the people we commonly refer to as “morning people,” and these people probably should be spending time soaking up the truths of Scripture before others awake.
But not all of us are morning people. If you are like me, you find yourself most awake and energized at night after the rest of the world has closed down. Others of you may find yourself most energized in the afternoon. There is no need to feel guilty about this, or inflict guilt on other family members or people under your care.
The key is to find the time of day where you can get the most out of your Bible reading and make it a habit to read your Bible every day at that time. Then, the rest of the day (whether that is before or after your daily quiet time) pray and meditate on Scripture as you are able.
Here are 4 signs that your current scheduled devotional routine may not be the best time to renew your relationship with God:
1. You struggle to stay awake—Ever sit down with your cup of Earl Grey and find your eyes blinking between sips of tea and pages turned? Maybe it’s because you aren’t a morning person, or perhaps you find yourself too tired at the end of the day to think about anything else. Whatever the reason, you likely aren’t getting much from your time in the Good Book. Consider choosing the time of day you feel the most alert.
2. You don’t engage well with what you read—Maybe your brain is a bit fuzzy because you just climbed out of bed, or maybe you feel fried after using it all day. Ideally, your mind should actively engage with what you read. If there is a certain time of day where you think more critically, ask more questions, and find yourself making more observations, then chances are this is the time of day where you can learn the most from what you read.
3. You feel rushed—If you keep looking at the clock because you have some place you need to go or you keep thinking that you need to get up early the next morning, then you probably aren’t devoting your full attention to what you read. This doesn’t mean you should never look at the clock, but try to choose a time when you aren’t too preoccupied with the time. Some people make it a point to have a set amount of time for their devotions (15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, etc.). Others read for however long it takes to get through a set daily reading plan. Still others may start at the same time every day but read or pray as the Spirit leads. Consider what works best for you.
4. You’re interrupted frequently and struggle to get back on track—Some people handle interruptions better than others. But some of us have a hard time getting back on track. If you find yourself regularly interrupted by family members, students, colleagues, phone calls, or something else during your devotions, consider if there may be a better time. During certain periods of life, you might not be able to avoid interruptions (example: moms of toddlers and newborns), but if you can, choose a time where you expect fewer interruptions.
While spending time with God should be a priority for ourselves and our families, that doesn’t mean everyone should do their quiet time in the morning or even at the same time as every one else in a household. For some of us, it may change during certain periods of life.
The bottom line is that people are different. My father always got up at 5 am to read his Bible. I usually read mine in the evenings.
What is the best time of day to do your devotions? I stick by my original answer, “Whatever works best for you.”
(This post originally appeared on blogs.bible.org)