Back to the basics
A quiet time is a basic element of Christian life
Daniel Henderson, president of Strategic Renewal International, says, “The hardest part about the Christian life is that it is so daily.” That is so true. And because of that, I think we need to constantly return to the basic elements of that Christian life. As Colossians 2:6 says, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him”.1 In other words, we are to keep doing what we were doing when the Lord saved us.
I know I am preaching to the choir, but it is vital to keep going back to where we started. In that vein, I would like to talk about having a daily quiet time with the Lord (often called devotions).
I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was seven, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I really started having a daily time with the Lord as a result of going to a hi-b.a. international camp that summer. Ever since, I have tried to have a daily quiet time, but it hasn’t always been easy. You might be different, but when my circumstances change (especially my school or work situation), it throws me off-kilter. So I have to reconsider things like when, where, and how I can keep having that time with my Savior. Here are some things to think about.
Choose a time
If we don’t plan something, we probably won’t do it. We need to set aside a time to meet with God. The Scriptures tell us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), meaning that we should always be in an attitude of prayer. But they also tell us that Adam and Eve met God “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). David spent time with God “in the morning” (Ps. 5:3) but also in the “evening and morning and at noon” (Ps. 55:16, 17). Daniel made it a rule to pray three times a day (Dan. 6:10), and David said he praised God seven times a day (Ps. 119:164). Our time with the Lord can be at any time of the day, but I find starting the day with God is best—before I get busy with other things.
The time can be different on different days, depending on your schedule. For example, on Fridays, I have to leave home before 7 a.m. and so my normal time with God (6:30 a.m.) doesn’t work. Instead, I have devotions later in the day or that night.
We have three meals a day, don’t we? Why? To sustain our physical bodies. The same applies to our spiritual well-being. Taking in regular nutrition (in this case, by spending regular times with God) is important for our souls.
Choose a place
We want to choose a place where we can be alone with God so that we can really concentrate on what He has to say to us. Jesus told us to “go into your inner room” and “close your door” (Matt. 6:6). It should be a place where you will not be distracted. I designed our home (I am an architect by training) thinking that I would have quiet time in my study. But if you’ve ever been in my study, you will know that it is not the best place for it. There are two PCs, two printers, a copy machine, two phones, a fax machine and a few hundred books; I can really get distracted in a place like that! So, I usually have time with the Lord downstairs in the room we use for our church. And even then, I have to be careful not to face the road, with all the cars and people to get me off track.
Psalm 46:10 encourages us to “be still, and know that I am God” (NIV)—we are to “cease striving” (same verse, NASB) and relax in His presence. Let’s not rush this time. There is really nothing more important in our whole day. As it says in Isaiah 30:15, “in repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Our time spent with God prepares us for the rest of the day.
Expect His presence
Let’s come to Him eagerly expecting Him to meet with us. He has promised to be with us always (Matt. 28:20). We can trust that God will always be found by us (Ps. 32:6).
When I read the Bible for quiet time, I like to read an unmarked Bible. Why? Because if I mark the verses I like or those that have spoken to me in the past, it’s easy to think that God must speak to me from only those verses (of course, I have study Bibles that are all marked up in various ways). But often, God wants to show me something I have never seen before. The Word of God is like a gold mine, one that will never exhaust its supply. There is always something new that God can teach us.
Act on it
Your time with God is for you, not your neighbor. You may think a passage is perfect for someone and want to share it with them. But that is not what quiet time is mainly for. You want to know “what does the LORD require of you” (Micah 6:8).
To help with that, I recommend having a notebook to record what God says to you every day. If we write it down, we can read it over later and “bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (Ps. 103:2). We can also put it into practice more easily. For instance, you might read Joshua 11 and the Lord speaks to you from verse 15. In response, you might write “This is what I know I should do, too. I need to follow God just like Joshua did—in everything.” You can then finish your quiet time with a prayer thanking God for what He has shown you.
We also lay God’s Word in our hearts so that we won’t sin (Ps. 119:11) and so that He can bless us (Josh. 1:8).
The only way we can grow as Christians is by getting the spiritual nutrition we need. That comes from spending time with God in prayer and reading His Word. It’s not easy to be consistent, and Satan will try to keep us from doing it. But that just shows how important it really is.
Of course, when circumstances change, we don’t have to stick to the schedule we have had up till then. When I was teaching full-time, it was fairly easy to have a consistent time with God. But when I got laid off, I had so much time on my hands that it was hard to get into a new routine. But it’s worth it when we do. As Jesus said in John 14:23, if we “keep [His] word” (by spending time in it and doing what He tells us to do), God “will come to [us] and make [His] abode with [us]”—on a daily basis.
1. All Bible quotes are from the NASB unless otherwise noted.