Spending time with God: Guidelines

In our new series of articles on ‘Spending time with God,’ contributors from each of our different Bible reading notes share their personal reflections. This week, Ruth Wells, writer for Guidelines January–April 2024, takes a poetic approach to the theme.

21 January 2024

I don’t know about you, but New Year always has, for me, that pull towards starting new things. Maybe it’s the conditioning of New Year’s resolutions which bombard my social media feed, or the wish to shed some of the excesses following Christmas. Whatever the triggers, I find myself starting this year reflecting on intention. This year I am entering into a new rhythm of prayer accompanied by some of my favourite familiar things: candles; a church building soaked in the prayers, hopes and intentions of many who have gone before; and prayer books with coloured ribbons.

This year I am entering into a new rhythm of prayer accompanied by some of my favourite familiar things: candles, a church building, prayer books.

Start with intention

Now, it’s not that I need these things to pray. I don’t believe I somehow conjure God up by applying the correct formula of dusty pew, red book and magic words. I recognise, though, that sometimes I need a prompt or two to ground me. To remind me of the intentions I have set. To offer a stability to the flimsy flightiness of my human frailty. I am sure you are much more spiritually disciplined than me, but perhaps you too find familiar things useful in focusing on praying. I wonder what these things are?

I’m really glad that God gets that I am human! That I start with intention and find myself somewhere else entirely much of the time! I am not sure how long the new year resolutions will last but I hope I continue to pursue spending time with God – props or no props.

Sometimes I need a prompt or two to ground me. To remind me of the intentions I have set.

Spending time with God

I spent the day with you
We just hung out,
There wasn’t much of a plan
Simply a will to be together
You danced…..
…..a lot!
And I tried to pick up some of the choreography along the way
Bumping into you now and then
Probably stepping on your toes.
You, too polite to mention it,
Simply carried on
Joyous in my movement.

You drew my attention to things I often overlook in the everydayness of life;
The sun streaming through my window
Dancing its own dance without a need for me to control it,
The ground, skilfully holding me up without demand or request,
The knowing smile of another parent on the school run,
The taste of that first morning coffee;
And I noted them in a new way.

You said we could hang out anytime,
That you were often in my neck of the woods;
In the woods
In the wind
In the streaming sun;
You said we could go for a walk
Or just sit side-by-side in the messiness of life
Holding the discomfort of me working out being human.

I think you understood I am easily distracted
Caught up in my overthinky thoughts
Or planning what’s next.

I hope you don’t mind that sometimes I need a few prompts to remind me you’re about
That the ribbons and the rhythm of daily prayer pull me back
That I am often good intentions which fall flat
That I am still learning to dance.

Revd Ruth Wells is a creative agitator, poet, artist, mother, priest, university chaplain and yoga fan.  She lives and works in Bournemouth with her vicar husband and three brilliant children. Ruth loves to explore the sneaky way poetry helps us to connect our heads and our hearts.


Guidelines is a unique Bible reading resource that offers four months of in-depth study written by leading scholars. Contributors are drawn from around the world, as well as the UK, and represent a stimulating and thought-provoking breadth of Christian tradition.

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