Quiet time. Devotions. Daily devos. Bible time. Prayer time. Bible reading. QT. O.O.O.W.G. (One On One With God, pronounced “ooowg”). If you’ve been a Christian any length of time you’ve probably at least heard one of these phrases. Hopefully you have your own, whatever you call it. It’s a time set aside to read your Bible and pray. If you are one who has a consistent discipline of doing this, good for you. Keep it up. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, or you do and you really struggle with it like I do, then keep reading.
I’m going to be totally transparent here; I have consistently sucked at this discipline. I’m really good and comfortable when it come to Bible study. But taking some time that is dedicated to seeking the Lord and prayer is much harder for me. That’s why I’m trying to create some processes that work for me. As a part of this I came up with these five things
you I need for a quality quiet time. Join me if you will. (There is a slide show and a Facebook Live video that Jess (my wife) and I did. We talked through the five points sharing thoughts and experiences. That is the source for this content. For more in-dept info, watch the video.)
1) We need an understanding of the purpose
Quiet times are different than Bible study. When you become a Christian you become a student of ancient history. Not in some dry academic sense. Your faith, your relationship with God is rooted in history and a cultures that goes back 6,000 years. You need to study it. You need to know it. Children in Jesus’ time memorized the first five books of the Bible in school. But quiet times are not for this.
Quiet times are an intentional sort of touch-base, check-in, get your marching orders for the day. That isn’t to say that you talk to God for 10 minutes and ignore Him the rest of the day and He you. We need to practice what the Jews call kavanah, walking in the Devine Presence at all times. But a quiet time is a dedicated time, a separate time for you and The Lord. Since you have a relationship with God it’s very much like the various relationships we have in life.
- When you get with your spouse you ask if they need anything or if there is anything you can do for them.
- When you get to work you check in with your boss to see if there is any change in your work or a new assignment.
- Before a soldier goes into battle they get their orders from their commanding officer.
That is the purpose of your quiet time.
2) We need to know the Bible-people precedents
This is not a new idea. People have been doing devotions of some sort for centuries. But even before that, we read in the Bible about people having intentional time in dialog with The Lord.
- Adam – walked and conversed with God in the cool of the day when the work day was done.
- Abraham – had many conversations with God, even served God dinner!
- Moses – Met with God so often at the Tabernacle that he had to wear a veil because his face would glow after being in God’s presence and it freaked people out. He was a mediator for God’s people.
- David – whether it was time in the fields tending sheep, or time in his palace as king, David gave us many of the Psalms which are like the journal of his quiet times. Praise, confession of sin, songs, and prayers.
- Daniel – we read about Daniel, late in his life even, opening his window toward Jerusalem three times a day and praying “as was His custom.” We also see him reading other prophets (Jeremiah in particular).
- Jesus – many times in the gospels it describes Jesus going off into the hills, or getting up early in the morning and going away from camp to pray. Even at the end, right before His betrayal, he goes to a garden to seek His Father.
- Paul – though there is no specific mention of his process, he writes about praying for the churches and believers. As a Rabbi and Pharisee he was an expert in God’s word. He tells others to spend time in the word and to pray for people.
3) We need to have the right mindset
To some this statement is going to sound silly, but it does not go without saying these days; God is really real. This is not just a belief system, or a moral code based on ancient myths that teach us wisdom for today that is no different from the Jedi or something. God is real. Through Jesus you and I can have a relationship with Him. Quiet times are just like spending time with your spouse, your kids, your best friend; real people.
That said, some might ask, “Why would anyone need a discipline or a habit to spend time with someone they love? Isn’t it disingenuous or forced to have a spiritual discipline and make yourself spend time with God?” Not to be too blunt, but this person has never been in a relationship long enough to understand. A relationship that starts with all the passion, all the enthusiasm, all the love and excitement can and will eventually fall into a routine at some point. That routine may slowly evolve over time. But with the responsibilities of a house payment, car payment, a job, kids, school, comes routine.
Deep and lasting love relationships are not based on the degree to which one feels passion, enthusiasm, or excitement. Those things play a part to be sure, but they are not the foundation. No, those kinds of relationships are built on self-sacrifice, devotion (see that?), commitment, and consistency. The purpose of those relationships is not what you get out of them, but what you put into them. More on this in a moment.
Having the mindset of expectation is also important. Do you hope or expect to hear from God? When I get up in the morning I talk to my wife and I expect to hear something back. I don’t wake up thinking, “I hope Jess talks to me after I read a note she left me and I talk to her face.” The only time I don’t expect it is if she’s mad at me or I’m mad at her in which case I don’t even want to talk to her nor she to me. Relationship has broken down. It happens, and it can be fixed because of the solid foundation.
Lastly, we need the mindset that a relationship with God has many different faces and facets, so it will look and feel differently at times.
- He is a husband and we, the church, are his bride. A very intimate picture which is why I keep referencing it. See Ephesians 5:22 and following.
- He is a King. He is THE King. He has a kingdom and an army. There is a respect, a fear, and awe in that. We are His subjects, His servants, His ambassadors, and His soldiers (Ephesians 6:12-18, the armor for the soldier). Doesn’t that just fly in the face of all of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” music we have in the church?
- He is our Father. We are adopted into His family and we are brothers and sisters with Jesus. John 1:12.
- Jesus is our savior, and He is our Lord. But both of those usually feel to “way out there” from us. One thing He is in addition is our Mentor. He is our Rabbi. He is our coach. He shows us how to do it, we try, He corrects and encourages us, like a coach or mentor.
Quiet time is when we check in with our Husband, our King, our Father, our Mentor.
4) We need to know the short and long-term goals
As we spend time in the word, it is as though we are putting deposits in a bank. Jesus said that there will be a time when the Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance the things that He said (John 14:26). The thing is, He can’t bring to our remembrance things that we never read or heard or learned in the first place. He can’t draw from an empty bank account. That’s why devotions and Bible study are so important.
As we develop these habits and skills we are being equipped to teach others not only the things we learn, but the discipline and process of devotions. We are in a 2,000 year old relay race. Jesus handed it off to His disciples and commanded them (Matthew 28:19-20) to hand it off to others, all the way down to us. I wonder which disciple connects me to Jesus? Hm. Now we have a responsibility to hand it off to others. Hence, this blog.
We are also being made ready for everything else in life. As you develop and experience your discipline of quiet times, you are taking in God’s word, you are praying, your are learning to hear from and trust God. This prepares you to be a reliable employee, a faithful spouse, a loving parent, and a devoted friend.
5) We need to set ourselves up for success
Some of these will resonate with some people but not with others. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive “to-do” list. These are suggestions of things to try and see what fits.
- Make an appointment with Jesus. For some people the act of making an appointment and putting it on a calendar makes all the difference in the world. I am not one of them, but you might be. Try it.
- Have a plan, a process, a ritual. I use all three words because they are functionally the same thing, but some people love or hate some of those words. Pick the one you love and run with it.
- Use a Bible reading schedule. There are hundreds of them out there you can print or access in an Bible app.
- Keep your devotional stuff together in one place so you don’t have to go looking for it. Jess keeps hers in a basket.
- Do your devos in the same place. You quiet time nook, if you will. Or won’t. Whatever.
- Accountability. Have a friend of yours reading the same plan as you, then touch base with them later in the day and chat about what you read. Commit to pray for the other person as well.
- No distractions. If you can, I highly recommend an analog/paper process. Use a physical Bible and a journal. Turn your devices off. If you have to or really want to use your digital device, then put it in airplane mode. See my article, 5 Ways To Remove Distractions and Hear The Lord More Clearly.
- Temperament and environment. I can feel the extroverts out there squirming. Quiet time? Alone? All by myself? In the quiet? Time? Find or create an environment that suits your temperament.
- If your an extrovert, then do your devos at a coffee shop, so long as the people won’t distract you.
- If your an introvert, curling up on the couch or sitting at your kitchen table with a cup of tea, your Bible and your journal all alone in your house is already Heaven.
- Some people feel a connection to the Lord when they are in nature. If you can, do your devos outside.
- Find an environment than enhances what you are doing, not one that detracts or distracts.
The right tools
I’m making this its own little point because it’s an important one. This is the one that makes or breaks it for many people. Why? Because they try one thing in one way, they way they’ve been taught, the way it’s always been done, and it either never works for them or they get bored with it.
Deep breath in; it’s OK to try something else. Breath out.
- You need a Bible. For devotions it’s OK to use a Bible that isn’t a more literal translation. Try The Message. Try the New Living Translation, the Good News Bible, the Amplified Bible. Change it up. Go old King James and feel all Shakespeare hipster.
- You need something to write on and with. Again, I encourage a paper/analog option. When we write things down it connects in our brains better. It’s science. It’s different than typing.
- You need a process, a pattern to follow and repeat every day. You need to know what you’re going to do each day and not make something up each time. As I said, people have been doing this for a long, long time, and there is almost no end of things to use and try out there. If you don’t have one, or are looking to change things up, let me suggest one; the Desert Island Bible Study.
Remember at the beginning I said that I kind of sucked at quiet times and I was creating my own processes to help me? Well, Desert Island is one of them, and I’d like you to have it and use it as well. It’s a simple five-step process that you can do in 15 minutes, and expect to hear from God as well as be used by Him to speak to others. I’m not selling it, this is not a sales pitch. I think this has some pretty cool potential to help build some new habits, and perhaps rekindle some old flames. Go check it out and give it a try. If you like it, share the page with others.
Another resource I’m working on is called, The Rhythm Journal. It’s still in the early stages of development, but it’s a more guided, more in-depth devotional tool. I’m super excited about that one.
Wrap it up
If you’ve made it this far, please do something for me; let me know what you’re doing for your quiet times and how its working. Share your story. Has this part of your walk with Jesus always been a struggle? Why? Is it easy? What have you tried? Let’s learn from each other.
Check out the slides and the video at the end of this post, as well as the links below. Thanks for reading!
- Desert Island
- The Rhythm Journal
- 5 Ways To Remove Distractions and Hear The Lord More Clearly
- Do You Hope Or Expect To Hear From God?
Facebook Live Video from Jan 17, 2017