First, one of my favorite things to say to people about their relationship with God is, "If you turn your relationship with God into a human relationship and it looks odd, you need to question how you are going about it!" What I mean by that is that even though a relationship with the God of the Universe has many obviously unique qualities about it, at its heart it's still a relationship and is built in the same way any healthy relationship is built.
If I want to get to know someone and deepen my relationship with him/her, I have to hang out with that person, listen to that person, share my heart with that person, care about what that person cares about, etc. So what do these things look like when we put them into practice in our desire to deepen our relationship with God? Perhaps it's easier to say what it shouldn't look like: "Having devotions," checking off the Scripture reading for today, going over the prayer checklist are shallow and often feeble attempts to build a relationship with Papa God. This is where my little suggestion comes into play. What would my wife think if I spent time with her every day in the same place in the same way covering the same things, etc., like some believers do with God? What would my best friend think if I listened to him via a checklist, reading, for example a certain number of emails or listening for a certain length of time then moving on to other things? What would I as a parent think of my sons if they came to me with a checklist of things to ask for? I think you get the picture.
Now I am not saying that there shouldn't be intentionality in our times with God. I am not suggesting that we can't have some "routine" in being alone with God or similar activities. There are, in fact, several things in my walk with God that are quite routine and very intentional. I always present myself to God in the mornings and choose to sit with Him until the awareness of His presence overshadows everything else. I always journal my thoughts (and His thoughts) on a daily basis. I often lift concerns for others into His presence for His answers and for His counsel. I do seek to discover Him in the pages of Scripture as He leads. I guess the difference is that I view my times with Papa as a "date" rather than a duty. And I when I read Scripture I am seeking to get to know the Promise-Keeper more than I am looking for promises, and I am longing to meet the Prince of Peace rather than find 10 principles for having peace. I also find myself in conversation with Him throughout the day rather than relegating my relationship with Him to a set time and place with a checklist in hand. I trust you can see the difference here. And I hope you don't hear me implying that I have this down pat! It's important for you to know that it's taken a while for God to lead me to this shift from religious activity to activities of intimacy, and I am still a work in progress. But I am living proof that a highly "religious" and duty-oriented "Martha" can become a Jesus-captured, intimacy-addicted "Mary." If it can happen for me, it can happen for you if it hasn't already.
It's also important to know that our uniqueness as individuals means that God will customize and personalize how He relates to each of us in ways that best fits how He made us. For example, some folks find that being outdoors in natural beauty helps them to draw close to God, but others find that being outdoors distracts or otherwise hinders their relationship with God. Some folks find that music helps them quiet down and hear God's whispers. Others find that it pulls them away from inner stillness because they start singing along! My point is: find what best works for you in terms of building awareness of God's love and grace, find what works best in terms of how you "hear" Him and let Him lead you deeper into those kinds of activities. Remember that Papa is far more eager about this than you ever could be! My sense is that anyone who chooses to stop "doing things to be a better Christian" and starts living in a way that builds a trusting relationship with Papa will find their own unique "activities of intimacy." That's certainly my prayer for any and all whom Papa brings across my path!
Pursuing the Pursuer,
Tom, One of Abba's children