Where do you go to engage in the spiritual discipline of study?
I’ve been thinking about this recently because of a podcast I listened to the other day. I like the Renovare podcasts, and enjoyed the recent one entitled, “Spiritual director and author Fil Anderson and lawyer Justin Campbell talk with Nathan Foster about how to study for transformation instead of just information.” If you would like to listen to it yourself, you can find it here.
One of the interviewees spoke of the helpfulness it was to him having a separate room in the house for study. The interviewer, Nathan, does not have space in his home for a separate room, but has a chair set aside for study. Nothing else happens in that chair except study. When he is in that chair he does not allow himself to have his phone within reach or any other device that might distract.
Why do we need a place free from interruption? We need it because intimacy and understanding are bred in a focused environment.
It is well known that Jesus took himself away in order to be with God. In Mark he, “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11). In Luke he, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)
Jesus may not have had a house with a study room, nor a chair for regular study. But that did not prevent him from being intentional about removing himself from people and other distractions in order to be focused on God.
To be honest, I’ve let this slip in my life. Therefore, here are my new resolutions. I would like to know what you think of these, and I’d like to know the practices which you have found helpful.
Here are the specifics of what I will do to enjoy more satisfying study:
1. Phone out of sight
The phone will go into my pocket, behind me on a shelf, or in a drawer. I have already disabled almost all notifications on my phone, but even the sight of it can be a temptation to distraction.
2. Noise-cancelling headphones
I have a really nice set of Sony noise cancelling headphones. I need to put them to better use. I already have a favourite piece of music I play when I’m doing my Bible study (Mozart piano concerto in D minor K466 if you’re interested). Now I will pipe it straight into my ears and allow the noise cancelling technology to keep me in my study-world.
3. Clear the desk
I don’t have much on my desk. I think better without clutter. However, I do have one or two things on the surface such as my Full Focus Planner and gratitude journal. These, and anything else I will remove from the desk surface.
I shall try these for the next month and let you know how it goes. Of course, this is not intended to create some new rule as if to say this is the only way to do it. Nor is ‘study’ exclusively connected to Bible study. This could apply to reading books, magazines and other materials.
Your study space might be a particular seat on the train, a park bench, the passenger seat in your car. It does not matter so much where it is. It matters more that we find and make the most of a special space for study.
What do you need to put out of site? What do you need to turn off, or turn on to help you be focused? What else do you do to enjoy deeper study?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.
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I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
God bless, Malcolm