Thoughts On Having “Quiet Time” With God…
A recent question from a dear friend of mine:
“I tried out having a quiet time with God today and I wasn’t sure what I should be doing.
Should it be a time of prayer, or a time of being alone with your thoughts, or should you shut off your mind completely and just be still?”
Such a great question, my friend! Thank you so much for blessing/honoring me by asking! Asking questions like this is part of the way that we seek, know, and worship God–keep it up! 🙂
Here are some thoughts:
1. You have LOTS of freedom regarding how you spend/invest your quiet time with God–there are many different ways to do this (just as there are many ways to spend time with a friend–phone, email, texting, movie, kicking soccer ball, bike ride, video games, go to church, eating a meal, serving others together, etc. etc. etc.)! Jesus is our FRIEND (John 15:15)–let’s treat Him like it (as opposed to treating Him merely like an impersonal energy source or just a philosophical idea)!
2. There will be seasons of your life when a certain method/style will be great and other parts of your life where another method/style will bring you closer to the LORD. Don’t freak out if a certain method/style “gets boring” or if you stop liking it–try another method! Just never give up!
3. There will be “mountaintops” when you literally FEEL that you are growing closer to the LORD in your quiet time–praise Him for these times! There will also be plenty of “valleys” when you literally FEEL nothing, when you feel as if you’re wasting your time–praise Him for these times as well! Don’t believe you are wasting your time! Don’t give up on spending time with Jesus!
4. Sometimes the devil, our own sinfulness, or both will try to make us feel overwhelmingly guilty, will try to make us feel like God is SO ANGRY with us for sometimes missing quiet time. These terrible feelings usually have one result: us giving up our quiet time. Don’t do it! God does sometimes discipline/chastise/remind us to start up our quiet times again if we have been getting lazy about them–and when He does this it often doesn’t feel great (Hebrews 12:4-12). But God is not going to pile overwhelming shame/guilt on us–He already did that to Jesus! Jesus took our sin/guilt/shame so that we wouldn’t have to carry it any longer! When God disciplines He lovingly/gently/firmly re-directs us back to putting even our daily schedule at His feet to spend it as HE wants us to because He alone knows/wants what is best for us.
5. Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the Sabbath was made for humans, but humans were not made for the Sabbath (e.g. to be controlled by it) (Mark 2:23-28). He said this to get them away from focusing so much on the rules of the Sabbath that they miss the heart of the Sabbath–they were worshiping the concept of a day of rest instead of using the concept of a day of rest as a way to worship God. Quiet times were made for humans (our benefit); humans were not made for quiet times (i.e. to be rigidly controlled by a structure/method). Just be careful that the quiet times do not suck out the joy of knowing God…if it does start to do that, pray to God and ask Him to help change your motives for quiet times (why you are doing them) and also to change your methods (how you are doing them). But don’t give up spending time with God!
6. Sometimes the devil, our own sinfulness, or both will try to make us feel as if we don’t need to do quiet time: either because we are busy, or justifying that we already do a lot of “religious” things, or that we’re tired, or that we just really don’t feel like it, etc. Obedience to God, while it doesn’t get us into heaven, is still important to God–it is our obedience to God on earth that helps us to grow closer to Him on earth, it is our obedience to God today that prepares us for the trials we will face tomorrow (just like an athlete prepares for the Championship game during preseason training), it is our obedience to God on earth that determines our rewards in heaven. Obedience is still important…just ask God for His help everyday and ask other Christians to help as well! 🙂
7. Remember, God wants us to have quiet time with Him NOT because He just wants to give us one more religious thing to do, one more holy homework assignment! He wants us to have quiet time with Him because He LOVES US and that is what loved ones do–they spend time together! He wants us to KNOW Him–that is the very definition of eternal life (John 17:3). Husbands often make this same mistake with our wives: we spend LOADS of time talking with/listening to them while dating, and what a surprise that the dating season is so great! But many husbands during marriage stop having quiet time with their wives and this leads to a breakdown in the marriage friendship. The same is true with God. Marriage counselors wisely tell married couples to “keep dating your spouse during your marriage!” The same is true with our marriage to God.
Here are some ways that I have had quiet time with God over the years–this is NOT a checklist…and these are NOT the only ways to have quiet time.
They’re just a list of methods that have helped me grow closer to the LORD over the last fourteen years:
A. When driving in the car to work/school/on errands, sometimes I turn off ALL sounds–radio, cell phone, etc. and I simply talk with God–sometimes out loud, sometimes just in my mind. Or I just think about God–something I learned about Him at church, reading the Bible, etc. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
B. Sometimes I like to listen to the Bible on CD instead of reading it. Up until 500 years ago this is how most Jews and Christians took in Scripture–hearing it read out loud! There are some fantastic CD and mp3 options–check them out on amazon.com (or click HERE).
C. Sometimes a verse really catches my heart during a sermon…during a worship song…during a Bible Study with friends. I will then focus on that one verse–or even one word within a verse–for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, thinking about what it means, looking at it from every angle, asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand it more, dreaming of different ways to apply it in my life. This can be done formally while sitting at a table…it can be done in the car while sitting at a redlight…it can be done during halftime of a football game…it can be done while muting the commercials of a tv show. Get creative! Invite Jesus into EVERY activity you do!
D. Listening to Christian music–while I’m driving the car, doing laundry at home, or taking a little walk around the neighborhood–is a POWERFUL way that I spend my quiet time with God. There are SO MANY amazing Christian bands today that God is inspiring to produce amazing music/lyrics. Many Christian songs today are four minute sermons set to music–just soaking in them and worshiping God through them is a great way to spend quiet time (please click HERE for Christian songs that have blessed me over the years).
E. Picking one psalm to read right before bed…or while I eat cereal in the morning. It’s so powerful to have God’s Word–even for a minute or two–be the first thing in your mind in the morning and the last thing in your mind before sleep. Others have said it well: “read the Good News (Bible) before you read the bad news (newspaper).” 🙂
F. Simply taking a walk around the neighborhood and telling God your frustrations and fears is a great way to spend time with Him while getting some exercise/fresh air.
G. Many people like to wake up a little early in the morning to have a focused time of reading a passage of the Bible and journaling what it means/ways to apply it. This can be a great method and in the future it is powerful to go back and read those journals, to remember what God has taught you in the past. The journal is also a great legacy/gift to give to your children someday as they begin to walk with Jesus the way you are right now.
Think of one or two Christians whom you really trust and whom you also sense have a growing hunger to know God and make Him known. Go to these folks and ask if they will pray for you regularly about your quiet time; also give them permission to ask you weekly how you are doing with your quiet time, IF you are having quiet time, what you are learning about God in quiet time, etc. I know this whole idea of having an “accountability partner” is like drinking sand to many people, but it really is important. God created humans to be in community–we are “pack creatures,” not solo entities. We need God, and we need each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
I hope this is helpful, my friend–so excited to see what the LORD does in and through you over your time on earth. 🙂
Please do let me know if any of this is confusing and/or if you have any follow up questions/comments.
Please click HERE for ways to read the Bible more consistently;
Please click HERE for ways to grow closer to Jesus each day;
Please click HERE for thoughts on having a consistent Sabbath rest.