As believers, we recognize the value of a quiet time each day with the Lord. While we aren’t commanded anywhere specifically to have this time, the Bible does tell us to meditate on and to delight in the Word (Psalm 1:2; Psalm 19; Psalm 119) and to spend time in our closets in prayer (Matthew 6:6).
From the time I was a little child, I remember being encouraged to have my “devotions”, in which I would read from a book that would give a few verses and then a paragraph or two about those verses. The older I got, the more I recognized that many of those devotional books aren’t real meat. While there isn’t anything wrong with some of them, they are more like a dessert. Most aren’t giving enough scripture to be the meat we need for our sustenance as a growing believer. But they are easier and so we like them. We can read the portion for the day and then check “quiet time” off our day’s to-do list.
It wasn’t until I started reading the actual Bible every day that I started to really grow. But, let’s be honest, Satan doesn’t want us in the Word. Since the power for life and godliness is within its pages, he wants to do all he can to keep us out of it. Biblical illiteracy and neglect renders us ineffective for Jesus Christ’s purposes and it often keeps us imprisoned by sin. (For those of us who would point fingers at the “obvious” sins, don’t forget that a complaining or anxious or selfish heart is also sin…very real temptations for all of us!)
And so as we start studying the Word in a deeper way and spending more time in prayer, what can we do to make sure our quiet time is as productive as possible? I thought I would break this down a bit today and offer a few helpful suggestions. Interestingly enough, this post is born out of my own distractions the other day. I started thinking about this while I was supposed to be having my quiet time!! Anyway…here are six things that may be keeping us from having the best quiet time we can have–
Life is just busy. Sports schedules, workouts and training, committee meetings, church activities, jobs–all of these can wear us out and distract us from our relationship with the Lord. If we have preschool or home-schooled children, it can add a whole different dynamic to this idea of finding a half hour to dedicate to this. How do we keep from being distracted by life duties and pressures? Here are a few suggestions–
First, plan a time. Morning, evening, afternoon–it doesn’t really matter. But plan it like you plan your workout or coffee with a friend or your favorite TV show. If you say you don’t have time, then I encourage you to examine your schedule to see what you can eliminate. Nothing should be more important than this. Sure, some of us are temporarily caught up in a whirlwind of activity beyond our control, but that is not the case for most of us. If you have kids at home, designate a quiet time for all of you. I did this when I home-schooled and it became the hour that energized me for the rest of the day. At 1pm every day the children would go to their rooms. They didn’t have to sleep but they did have to look at or read books or quietly rest. And then I would have my quiet time. Or at least that was the idea–but, instead, I’d often be distracted by my “to-do” list. Which leads me to…
Second, make your time with the Lord a priority. Recognize the value in spending time with Him and realize that whatever is calling your name is not more important than your time with Him. I look back and can see this now. I hope I can encourage you to not make the same mistake I did!
Feelings can be SO deceiving. And think of how often we obey them! We think if we don’t feel like praying or getting in the Word, then it is perfectly fine not to do so. I struggle with this so much. And, yet, I find that when I ignore my feelings and do it anyway, my feelings soon tag along afterwards and I am so glad that I moved ahead and did the right thing, despite my feelings. This is worthy of a blog post alone because this is what is driving so many choices regarding all of life! If we can say NO to our feelings and YES to doing the right thing, we will have won a HUGE victory in our battle with the flesh.
Have you ever been in the middle of praying when suddenly you hear that little ding or buzz go off on the table beside you? Your curiosity drives you to look at your phone–interrupting your prayer time. Or perhaps you are reading scripture and it brings something to mind you want to look up…and since your phone or tablet is right beside you and you can look anything up at any time…
I confess that this is something I really struggle with. I have learned it is best for me to keep my phone and iPad in a different room when I am praying and reading my Bible every morning.
Technology is a wonderful thing, but it is also a very exacting taskmaster. We have become enslaved to our phones and instant communication. We believe it is our responsibility to be available to everyone at all times. But will the world really stop if we don’t respond for 30 minutes?
This is such a struggle for me. Did I mention that? Sometimes I really long for the old days–at least when it comes to having my quiet time…
Track with me here as I unpack this one. I have recognized that my quiet time can often be overtaken by my absorption with myself. Whether it’s reading the scripture, greedily searching for some personal comfort or it’s my prayer time being consumed with my own selfish desires, I find I quickly fall into the trap of selfishness during my quiet time. This attitude will keep me from having a productive quiet time. A truly quality quiet time has us humble and yielded before the Lord with a heart that desires to obey. Coming before the Lord with a prideful, greedy, selfish heart will keep us from having a close relationship with the Lord–no matter how many hours we may spend with Him.
5. Sinful Attitudes
This is a bit similar to #4 but I don’t think we always see that. When we come to our quiet time with an unforgiving heart or with a grudge against someone, we are putting a wall up between us and the Lord. Walls are also built by our anxious heart (we are saying with our actions that we don’t trust the Lord), our envious or jealous heart (we are discontent with what the Lord has provided), and our prideful heart (we are saying we don’t need the Lord). These things keep us from drawing near to the Lord in spirit, even if we are physically sitting and reading the Bible.
6. Improper View of God and Man
Okay, so this is a little deeper theologically than the others, but please keep reading. I think this is really important. This really encompasses all of the above.
I believe we are often kept from a productive quiet time because we don’t really know God. We don’t give any thought to the fact that He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), immutable (never-changing), and absolutely sovereign. We don’t have a big enough view of Him and we treat Him like a casual friend. Yes, He is our friend but He is so much more than that! He is God! We should have reverence and godly fear when we approach Him.
And, then, we have a wrong view of self. We have nothing to offer God. We couldn’t even live and breathe if God didn’t allow it. We must recognize our dependence upon God for every single thing. Realizing this naturally changes how we approach scripture and prayer.
Having a proper view of God and self are so critical to a thriving and vibrant walk with the Lord. And proper views will help us navigate and eliminate the first five items on this list.
That was a lot to take in, wasn’t it? But I hope that this list of six things may give you some ideas on improving your quiet time. I know it really made me think as I wrote it. If we love God and we want to walk as closely with Him as possible, it is imperative that we make our quiet time as productive as we possibly can.