A recent Yahoo News article highlights the bedtime routines of influential leaders. From President Obama’s late-night security briefings to Stephen King’s obsessive habit of turning the pillows a certain way, it seems that everyone “in the know” has a routine that nurtures success.
What about Christians? We are called to be disciplined, so what routines help us prepare for God’s new day ahead? Here are a few recommendations.
1. Prayer. Although many people pray at the end of the day because they forget to pray during the day, prayer is still a worthy endeavor in thanking God for the blessings along the way.
The solitude and quiet of bedtime prayers also gives the Holy Spirit room to work, and it is not uncommon for a rush of insights to come when we’ve finally given our brain permission to rest.
When you get a barrage of insights, write them down in a notepad, lest you forget. Then, once recorded, turn them over to the Lord.
2. An Examin. Prayer alone can be quite helpful, but one of our spiritual ancestors, St. Ignatius of Loyola, turned bedtime prayer into a practice similar to that of day-dreaming. This practice, called the Examin, has a five-fold process that many Christians, Jesuits especially, still practice today.
First, when one goes to God in prayer, there is a time of gratitude. Next, the person imagines standing before God and asks the Spirit to speak into his or her heart.
Third, as the imagery unfolds, insights are revealed. Fourth, there is a recollection of the day’s deeds and confession. Last, there is a short prayer of intercession.
The emphasis of an Examin actually rests on confession for the day’s events. There is a proactive, spiritual cleansing that sets the heart right with God and lets the new day come with a clean slate.
3. Journaling. Useful in recording the day’s events, journaling is simply another way of praying to and worshiping God.
We write, and the physical movements of our hand and pen inspire us to sacrifice our daily living unto the glory of God.
4. The physical act of getting ready for next day. Successful people have shown great discipline in this task. Sometimes, it includes drawing up a “to-do” list, as well as prioritizing time management for the next day’s schedule.
It can also help us put God back in the center of our lives by remembering what we’ve neglected or overlooked, and need to focus on.
Sometimes I do this while ironing a shirt I will wear the next day. Another person I know does this while removing her make-up for the day. The physical actions accompany a spiritual commitment to get a fresh start with God and with others.
5. Letter writing. There is something precious about receiving a hand-written letter in the mail. Letters communicate a level of care and concern that exceeds most things we have in our life today.
Letters keep us in touch with family, long-lost friends, and acquaintances. It re-connects us to the outside world, re-orients our minds to the needs of others, and re-imagines our lives as interdependent in God’s larger community. It is cathartic to write, and it is cathartic for the recipient to read.
6. Spiritual Reading. One of Bill Gates’ routines is to read at least an hour before bed. Presidents Obama and Theodore Roosevelt are infamous for reading hundreds of pages into the night.
Spiritual reading is invaluable for Christians who need the slower, methodical rhythm that such encouragement offers. It is, as all of the routines imply, another way to worship and honor God with our time.
As you go about your day, remember that routines are the life-blood of the human soul. They help us align ourselves to God’s Spirit and put into practice those things that matter most in our life.