In all the busyness of life, I’ve found that it’s easy to neglect the one thing that will help me to live a busy life effectively: a growing relationship with God. I’ve struggled with this, so I’d like to share how I’m dealing with it.
What’s a quiet time?
I define a “quiet time” as time spent reading and responding to God’s Word while enjoying His Presence.
Using this definition, a quiet time is not:
- In-depth Bible study. I’m all about Bible study. Standing in the Bible study aisle at Lifeway would cause me to drool if I were less concerned about my mental health reputation. But let me say from personal experience that Bible study is no replacement for simply reading Scripture and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach me. If you think of it in relationship terms, a quiet time is like a romantic date and Bible study is more like gathering a personal history. When spending time with someone I love, I’d rather have the date.
- Reading a Christian book other than the Bible. I’m an avid reader and love to be surrounded by books. While other children played outside, I allowed my muscles to atrophy while making my way through the Nancy Drew series. I currently have a shelf and a half of books that I’m just itching to get to. But while those books may teach me a lot about God, they are no replacement for hearing directly from God through His Word.
- Listening to Christian music. I couldn’t live without music. I’m a former band geek and current shower worship singer. I’m even married to a musician. But the point of a quiet time is to have God’s words running around in my head and responding to them, and not to listen to someone else doing that.
In-depth Bible study, Christian literature, and good Christian music are wonderful and time-worthy investments. But they should be experienced in addition to and not in replacement of a quiet time.
Ok, I’m convinced. So what do I need?
- Bible – I’ve found that The Daily Bible is perfect for a quiet time. It’s separated out into chunks that you can read in a few minutes. If you use it every day, you’ll read through the entire Bible in one year. This Bible has Scripture in chronological order, meaning that it’s more like reading a story. It also has explanations throughout so that the reader has a better handle on what’s going on. Another bonus is that chapter and verse references are kept in the margin rather than in the actual text, eliminating that distraction.
The Message Bible is also good for a quiet time. It’s more of a paraphrase of the Bible and is written in today’s language. As I’ve done in-depth study of specific verses and compared them with the translation in The Message, I’ve been impressed with how well this paraphrase communicates the true meaning of the Scripture.
- Journal/notebook – I use a journal to write out my prayers. Any notebook will do. You may even just want to put notebook paper into a binder. I like to use a spiral-bound journal with a verse printed on each page. The verses chosen for these types of journals are usually encouraging and keep me in the right frame of mind. And, what can I say, I like a pretty cover. It’s just the girl in me.
- Pen – It’s best to use a pen rather than a pencil so that you don’t get distracted by a lot of erasing. It’s alright to just cross out a mistake and move on.
- Bookmark – You’ll want to turn to your reading for the day quickly and easily. You’ll not want to start out your quiet time with the frustration of wondering, “Where was I?” If you choose to use a daily Bible and start on January 1st, you can refer to the date. But there may come a time that you miss a day or decide to read a couple of readings in one day, so a bookmark will be handy.
What’s a perfect quiet time place?
Somewhere quiet and free of distractions. Outside is always nice. In a previous residence I loved to sit on my second-story balcony and look at the sky. The moon, clouds, or birds in the sky always helped me to feel closer to God. I also love to sit at my dining room table next to a window to be able to look outside. These days I’m carpooling to work with my husband and getting there before anyone else, so I enjoy a quiet time in my cubicle.
You may have a comfortable chair in your living room or your private study at home that will become your special spot. The one place that I would avoid is the bed – that’s just too comfortable. It doesn’t take long to fall asleep while praying, which is akin to falling asleep on a date. Doesn’t exactly promote open communication.
I’ve got my stuff, I’ve got my spot…now when is a good time?
I’ve experimented with the time of day – morning, noon, and night. People usually recommend the morning, and I have to agree with them despite my utter disdain for all things early. I’m not a morning person and am not interested in human interaction before 11am (except for my husband), but I’ve found that my mind and heart are at rest in the morning. At noon (lunchtime) I’m usually distracted by work, and by the time I get home in the evening I want to just eat and spend time with my husband. So the morning works best for me, although it all boils down to what works for you.
Ok, I’m ready. Now what do I do?
- Turn to a blank page in your journal and write the date at the top. Keeping track of dates in your journal is a great way to see how God is answering your prayers. Reviewing my prayers and seeing how God was moving in my life was a major reason that I decided to move into a more serious relationship with my husband when we were dating. Seeing how God answered such specific prayers makes me appreciate him more and know that he was the man God planned for me.
- Pray for God to teach you. Just like that. Simple.
- Turn in your Bible to the reading for the day. You should have this bookmarked.
- Start reading and writing. Try to immerse yourself in what you’re reading. As you’re reading, write down any thoughts or questions that you have in your journal as if you’re talking to God face-to-face. Treat it like a conversation. Nine times out of ten you’ll come across a verse that seems to just jump out of the page and speak to you directly. Tell God what you’re reading and why it stands out to you. And then just continue to talk to Him. You may have only a sentence or two to say, or this may open up the floodgates and have you writing for pages. Pour yourself out to Him. This is what it is to experience God.
- Complete your reading. After I’m done reading, I’ll usually end my prayer in my journal thanking God for speaking to me or just saying that I love Him. Or I may have other things that I want to pray about, so I continue journaling.
- Leave your bookmark at the beginning of the reading for the next day.
After a good date with my now husband, I would come home glowing and more in love than ever. I feel the same way after a good quiet time. I end it convinced that God loves me and cares about what’s going on in my life…and more in love with Him than ever. It’s a great way to start the day.