First, let me say that while I use the term “Quiet Time” regularly in conversations and in sermons, you won’t find that exact phrase in the Bible. It’s a phrase that has been adopted by Christ-followers to describe a time that they regularly set aside to spend intentional time with God. It’s important to note that just like any human relationship, you can’t systematize your relationship with God. It must be organic and you must discover what works best for you. With that being said, I thought I’d share some of my habits and practices in hopes that they would be helpful as you develop your own way to have a “Quiet Time.”
1. Set aside a designated time. I practice a daily “Quiet Time” routine each morning from about 5:30-6:30am. Some of you are thinking I’m crazy for getting up that early, but for me doing it first thing helps me to set it as a priority before anything else happens that day (not too mention that it’s way before anyone else in my house is up, so it really is a ‘Quiet Time’). By putting my designated time with God first each and every day it helps to steer my thoughts, emotions, relationships, conversations, etc… as I go throughout the day. Plus it serves as a reminder that I need to dedicate each new day to God and to be reminded that each day is a gift from him, and is a new day filled with new opportunities, new mercies, and new grace from God.
2. Begin your time with prayer. By praying right up front, it gives you the opportunity to say, “God, I give you this time. Speak to me in this moment. Help me be open to hear whatever it is you want to tell me, and help me to be obedient to act upon it.” And remember, prayer is far more about listening than it is about talking-give God some room to speak directly to you.
3. Remember who you are talking to. Always remember who you are addressing when you pray. Jesus addressed God as, “Father.” That’s a great term because it’s an intimate term, and it’s a term of authority. Try to stay away from slang phrases like, “Hey God.” These types of slang or cultural phrases detract from the reverence and respect we are to have for the names of God…and if you search the Bible, there are many!
4. Write down your thoughts and prayers. I like to keep a journal. I will often write my prayers, my thoughts, and my feelings. Writing these things down helps me to really consider what’s filling my heart and mind. It helps me to focus my time with God, and it helps me to keep a record of my journey with Him, too. It’s always neat to look back and see how God has worked in my life over a period of time.
5. Have a plan. Because I’m always on the go, when my body is still my mind gets moving to compensate. If I don’t have a plan when I sit down, before I know it, I’ll be planning my day, coming up with an idea for another blog post, thinking about what I want to eat for breakfast, and so on. Therefore, I need a plan. And that brings me to #6:
6. Read the Bible. I know, that should almost go without saying, but you’d be surprised. The Bible is God’s inspired word to humans. It’s one of the primary ways he communicates with us. It’s important to actually spend time reading it, otherwise, how will you know what He has to say? I’m amazed at how many people I talk with and when I ask the question, “How often do you read your Bible?” they say, “Umm…not as often as I should.”, which translates, “Hardly ever…unless I’m trying to look something up to prove someone else wrong, or to give myself permission to do something I have no business doing.” OUCH!
When it comes to reading your Bible, there are many things to consider. After all, the Bible is 66 different books all compiled into one. My friend Rachel wrote a really great post on How To Read The Bible. You should totally check it out. It’s very helpful! Here are some tips for knowing what to read in your Bible:
Try a ‘Through The Bible In One Year’ reading plan. A plan to read through the Bible in a year is a great way to get an expansive look at the Word of God . There are lots of sites that offer this, but my favorite is this one from BibleGateway.com, which is a fantastic resource for online Bible translations and other various resources. Speaking of translations, I really like reading in different translations so you can get a little different take on a verse or group of verses. I really like the NIV, the NLT, the NASB, the NRSV, the NKJ, and The Message Translation.
Read one book of the Bible at a time. Just read a chapter, or section, each day. For instance, I did Hebrews recently, a chapter a day, and it was awesome. I’m currently reading the Gospel of Mark in my quiet time, but I’m doing 1 – 2 chapters a day, depending upon the flow of the text. Remember, humans broke the books into chapters and sections, so sometimes one chapter or section flows right into the other and it’s helpful not to break when you read.
Read one chapter from Proverbs each day. There are 31 chapters, so this works out nicely to be read in one month.
Read one chapter from the book of Psalms each day. Just like you would do with Proverbs, the difference is, there are 150 chapters. Right now I’m reading Mark-I’ll read a section from Mark and I also may read a chapter in Psalms.
Read an entire book of the Bible in one sitting. It really helps you see that particular book as a fluid thought and not just broken into pieces.
Get a Study Bible. If you don’t have one currently, I recommend getting one. They are expensive but well worth the money. Study Bibles have sections before each book of the Bible that tell you about the writer, the audience to whom the book was written, the date and time of the writing of the book, the context of the culture, and any other pertinent issues that are helpful in interpretation. Context is extremely important when reading the Bible, otherwise, you can make it say all kinds of things that it was never meant to say. Here’s a good hard copy version. There are also great apps such as Olive Tree for your mobile devices. By the way, in case you’re not familiar with it, a great site for getting Bible context info is http://biblehub.com
A word about “Daily Devotionals”: Daily Devotionals are great, but it’s important not to substitute them for actually reading your Bible! We need to be sure that we are spending time regularly in God’s Word, listening for reflections and thoughts from the Holy Spirit, and not just from another writer. With that being said, daily devotionals can be a great help in walking with God. At Port City Community Church we are providing a daily devotional that serves as a companion for the current series. It’s really well done and very helpful. It can be done in as little as 15 minutes or as long as you’d like to take. You can find it here. My Utmost For His Highest is a great daily devotional, too. There’s an app for your phone, and it’s available online, for free, at http://utmost.org.
Remember: If you’re not careful, your Quiet Time can become routine and religious, so it’s good to mix things up from time to time. Also, Spending time with God should not be relegated to a time-slot...it should be an ongoing journey throughout your entire day. God wants us to be in constant communion with Him and to be in ongoing conversation as we go through our day. And finally, Your relationship with God may look different than someone else’s because we are all wired and created uniquely. Just like in a marriage or in any other relationship, there is no “best formula” for getting closer. The most important elements are spending time together and communicating regularly. Don’t forget though, communication is sometimes more about listening than it is about talking. And as the relationship matures, so will the way you spend your time and the way you communicate.
I hope this helps! Feel free to leave your comments and add to these thoughts!