I was asked yesterday what my quiet time is like. So, I’d like to take some time to go through it. However, I believe that quiet time with God will look very different for different people who are at different stages in their relationship with Him. My quiet time has evolved a lot over the years, and what I’m doing this year may or may not be what I’m doing next year.
But first, a story that I believe illustrates the purpose of quiet time.
When my wife, Darcy, and I started dating, she worked at a movie theater. She was in management and usually worked the closing shift. This meant that she was often getting off work after midnight, sometimes one o’clock in the morning. I wanted, desperately, to spend time with her. So, each night she worked, I would go to the movies. She would get me a complimentary ticket for the last movie playing that night. I would be finishing up the movie shortly before she was closing the theater for the night. This doesn’t mean I saw a lot of movies during that time. It means I saw the same movies a lot during that time. Depending on the week, I watched the same terrible movie as many as 4 or 5 nights in a row! I love movies, but not like that! Afterward we would drive back to her house and sit in the car, out at the curb talking for hours.
Why? Why did I sit through the same movie repeatedly, night in and night out? Why did I sit up talking until 6 a.m. knowing I had to be in class the next morning? Not because I love movies. Not because I’m a night owl. And certainly not because I liked the challenge of sleep deprivation added to my college courses. I did it because I really liked her! We were building a relationship. I wanted to get to know her better. I wanted to know how to make her happy and learn how to love her well. So, I did whatever it took to spend time with her.
That story is just to illustrate my view of my quiet time with God. When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I entered a new relationship, not adherence to a new set of rules. Like my relationship with Darcy, I wanted to get to know Him better, how to please Him, and to learn to love Him more and more. If Jesus was to be the boss of my life, I needed to have a clear understanding of what He wants me to do. So, we intentionally hang out and talk. He speaks through His Word. I respond in prayer, and in that dialog, our relationship has grown. The thing is, He loves and adores me and any time He can get with me. But He’s not pushy about it. He waits for me to be intentional and initiate our time together. So, there have been times when He’s been left waiting in the wings for days, weeks, even months at a time while I tried to run my own life for a bit. Time and experience have taught me the futility of that. Now, we’re pretty steady and consistent. I would never have been able to hear His call to pastor without that time together. There is no way I could continue to shepherd without it. The quiet time is soul food! Nourishment, fuel, comfort, communion, all of that, for my soul.
What plan do I use? I no longer follow along on a Bible reading plan. I have done many over the years. They have been good to keep me on track and gotten me through the entire Bible in a year numerous times. A few years ago, I led CrossPointe to read through The One-Year Bible together, and it really was a good thing for our spiritual growth together. I stopped using the reading plan because I didn’t like the guilt of missing a day or two and feeling like I have to read three times as much on a “catch up” day. And there are some days when God will have me pause on a verse or passage and meditate there as He reveals some more truth to me. So, I like having the freedom to read more or less as I choose. Remember the purpose of the quiet time is to spend time with God and to get to know Him better. The purpose is not to munch through chapters, check off a box, and earn a badge at the end of the book. If it takes you 1 year or 10 years to get through the whole book, it doesn’t matter as much as consistently spending the time with Him allowing Him to speak into your life and responding to Him in words and action.
For 2019, I changed things up. Now, I read two chapters of the Old Testament, (I actually started in Joel, read through Malachi, then circled back to Genesis just to spice things up) one chapter from Psalms or Proverbs, and one chapter of the New Testament (2019 I started with the Gospel of John.) If I miss a day, I just pick up where I left off and keep on moving forward.
I always pray before I start reading. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me a better understanding of God and a strong grasp of what He is wanting to transform in me. As I read, I mark my Bible up. There are highlights of various colors, verses underlined, and notes in the margins. These aren’t for study, but for reflection and dialog. If there was something that spoke to me particularly strong that day, I’ll go back and read through it a few more times. Then the journal comes out where I write the date, what I read, a key verse or two, then my response. Sometimes my response is a prayer. Sometimes it goes deeper as I work out how the Word is applied to specific situations I’m going through. Then I pray. I still follow the ACTS acronym for my prayer time (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.) It keeps me from rambling. Amen and that’s it!
Your quiet time should be reflective of your relationship with the Lord. Tailor it to fit. I do have a few suggestions that I think could be helpful.
- Do it in the morning. I know some who try to do their quiet time at night before bed. That feels a little counter-productive to me. I want instruction, guidance, encouragement, admonishment from the Lord before I get out into the world and have to tackle whatever the day is going to bring my way. I don’t want to get all of that, then sleep on it until the next day.
- Start with bite-sized chunks of Scripture. You don’t have to read chapters at a time for the Lord to speak to you. Start with 5-10 verses and chew on them thoroughly. Remember, the goal is not to churn through pages and pages. It’s to spend time with Him and allow Him to speak to you.
- Pray before and after you read. Ask for understanding before you read. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 says, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Pray your response after you read. This is a dialog.
- Don’t let guilt paralyze you. You won’t be perfect. Get over it. If you miss a day or two or seven, evaluate. Be honest. Why did you miss the time? What got in the way? Life happens and that’s ok. A few minutes of social media on your phone can quickly turn into hours and that’s not ok. Make the necessary adjustments and keep moving forward. If I forget a date with my wife, I’m going to feel guilty. But I’m not going to avoid her for a while hoping the guilt goes away. I excited for my next opportunity! You should be too!
If you have a relationship with Jesus, it is the most important relationship in your life. This warrants intentional interaction on a daily basis. Make it a habit. See what a steady diet of God’s Word and time in His presence will produce in your life for His glory.