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You may know you should have a quiet time – or devotional time – every day. But you may also be asking yourself, ‘what is a quiet time?’ How do I have a quiet time?
A daily quiet time has only a couple of key elements. But there are lots of variations and additions that you can add as time and desire allow.
The Essentials of a Quiet Time
The first essential is God’s Word. Your devotional time is set aside to meet with your Father, the God of the Bible. And that requires that you know His thoughts – which he has recorded in the Bible.
Since you cannot know God’s thoughts apart from the Bible, reading the Bible is absolutely essential. To get the most out of your Bible time, you will also need to have a plan for what you will read and how you will respond to what you read.
The second essential is talking to God – also known as prayer. If you are not used to praying regularly or if you think that you need to know lots of fancy words to pray correctly, here’s some good news. Praying does not require any great knowledge, fancy words, or long lists. It only requires that you talk honestly and openly with your Heavenly Father.
If you did not have a close relationship with your earthly father, this might be more of a challenge for you. If it helps, think of prayer as talking to your closest friend.
In close relationships, conversations run from the mundane (what did you buy yesterday) to the important but normal (how are the kids) to critical issues the make you vulnerable (how do you feel about… or what will you do now…). It is the same way in prayer.
Yes, God already knows everything you think, feel, struggle with, and have done or want to do. But He also likes to hear about it. Think of it like this. When your mother is getting older, she may repeat favorite stories of her life or your growing up years. You’ve heard them dozens of times. Do you stop her? No. Because you know it gives her joy to tell it, so you listen.
God is the same way. He knows, but He also wants to hear your voice. As you make yourself vulnerable in prayer – and that includes confessing sins – He can love you and comfort you and guide you in the ways you need. Because you talked to Him.
The only two essentials of your daily devotional time (or quiet time) are hearing from God by reading the Bible and talking to God in prayer. And, no, it doesn’t matter which one you do first. Ideally, you should switch back and forth between the Bible and prayer.
Responding to the Word During Your Quiet Time
Reading the Bible is important. But responding to what you read in the Bible is more important. If you don’t take this step, then you are like the person James describes:
“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.”
(James 1:22, 25 – CSB)
When you respond to the Word you need to first determine what the passage you read says. And then, determine how you will respond to what it says. The best way I’ve found to do this is to answer questions about what I just read.
A few basic questions to ask are these:
- What does this passage say?
- What did this passage mean to the original readers or hearers of the message?
- What principles in this passage can I apply to my life?
- What does this passage teach me about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or myself?
- How can I live the truth of this passage today?
But in addition to basic questions that can be asked of almost any passage, you may want to ask and answer specific questions. For example, if you are reading through Genesis, you might ask questions such as these:
- Who are the important people in this passage?
- How did those people relate to God?
- How is God’s interaction with the people in this passage different from or similar to how Jesus interacted with people in the Gospels?
- Is this person a good example for me to follow? If yes, in what way? If no, why not?
If you are going to be consistent in both having your devotions and allowing the Spirit to teach you and grow you through your devotions, you need to have a plan for answering such questions. A journal is a great place to start. Another option would be a devotional guide that provides space for responding to what you read.
By the end of January, I will have a devotional guide available that will lead you to establish a quiet time habit. It will also teach you what types of questions to ask and give you space for recording your thoughts about living out the principles you learn. Join my email list to make sure you don’t miss out!
Finally, write out a commitment describing exactly what you will do today to live out the message you read in your quiet time. Because, if you are anything like me, (1) you’ll forget if it’s not written down and (2) “I’ll do it later” will become doing it never. Don’t be like the guy James described!
Talking to God During Your Quiet time
The second essential of your quiet time – prayer – requires you to talk openly and honestly to God. This may be a challenge if you are used to lying to yourself. But the Spirit will help you overcome that if you just keep showing up.
So, what do you pray about? The short answer is everything. If it concerns you, it concerns your Father. Nothing is too small to bring to Him. Nothing is too big to bring to Him.
If you want a longer answer, you can use any of several different approaches to prayer. One of the best-known methods for prayer is the ACTS method. Each letter stands for one aspect of prayer:
- A – Adoration, which is also known as worship & praise for who God is
- C – Confession of your sins
- T – Thanksgiving for all the blessings God has given you – both the small and large
- S – Supplication, which is simply asking for what you, your family, church, friends, neighbors, country, world needs. Supplication is what most people think of when they think of prayer. Asking for things.
But just going straight to supplication is kind of like when you were a teenager and said, “I need $20” to your mother or father with such an attitude of entitlement. If you first spend time enjoying the presence of God, worshiping Him, setting your heart right, and giving thanks, you will find your ‘need’ for that $20 suddenly doesn’t seem so important.
Other ideas for your prayer time include:
- Using prayer lists – praying for your church on Mondays, your friends on Tuesdays, etc.
- Praying Scripture. A great place to start is with Paul’s prayers. Praying these prayers for your family is truly asking for God’s best for each of them.
- Reading and praying through one psalm each day. The Psalms were originally prayers or hymns of worship. As such, they are a great source for great prayers.
- Spending part of each prayer time focused on one attribute, name, or characteristic of God, starting with A (Awesome, Awe-inspiring, Amazing, All-knowing) and continuing through Z (Zealous, Zion-loving). Some letters are harder than others (Q? X? But be creative and use an online dictionary!).
- Praying the same passage for a week or a month. Maybe Psalm 1? Or a portion of Psalm 119?
- Singing the same hymn daily until you have memorized all the verses. Those old hymns have some great theology!
- Asking God to speak to you clearly, then sitting quietly for at least 30 seconds (a minute is better). Write down what thoughts came to your mind. Pray about those thoughts.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to pray. And the amazing thing is, the more you pray, the more ways to pray you’ll discover. The Spirit of God will never let you run out of ways to communicate with your Lord and Savior.The more you pray, the more ways you will discover to spend time praying. Your desire for prayer and power in prayer will grow constantly. Click To Tweet
Possible Additions to Your Quiet Time
If you have the time you may want to add something else to your quiet time. As you consider whether to add any of the following items, also consider what you want to accomplish with your quiet time.
Do you have daily devotions because you think you should? Or because you want to spend time in the presence of Jesus? While there is something to be said for sticking with a habit even when you don’t feel like it, desiring to spend time in God’s presence is a far better reason for having a quiet time.
The question you need to ask yourself is this: will adding [this item] to my quiet time draw me closer to Jesus? Or will it just make me feel better, smarter, more accomplished, more deserving? Do not add anything that will not draw you closer to Jesus. Even if your best friend, mother, or husband thinks it is essential!
Following are some ideas for items to add to your devotions – if they help your relationship with Jesus and your faith to grow.
- Listening to or singing worship music or hymns
- Reading a Christian living book
- Reading a devotional book
- Writing out your prayers
- Memorizing and reviewing Bible verses
These are all good, worthwhile activities. I’ve used all of them as part of my quiet time in the past. But that doesn’t mean they are right for you during this season of your life. If you only have 20 minutes for your devotions, spend it in the Bible and prayer. If, however, you have an hour, add those habits that will grow your faith.
If you need some help deciding, my first suggestion would be to add worship music and hymns (and yes, sing along!). The second would be memorizing the Word.Time with the God of the Universe should fill you with peace, joy, love, confidence, purpose. But also with humility, graciousness, zeal for righteousness, sorrow over sin, and utter contempt for the idea of 'self-reliance.' Click To Tweet
What is a Quiet Time? Final Thoughts
The bottom line when it comes to having a quiet time, or devotional time, is this: it is your time set aside to meet with your loving, forgiving, gracious God & Father. Whatever draws you closer to Him is allowed. Whatever draws you away, isn’t.
One caution, though. There are myriad false gods in the world and in the church today. You must be in the Bible consistently to recognize the true God from the Satan-inspired false gods.
If you come away from your quiet time feeling proud instead of humble, ready to conquer the world instead of ready to serve, or expecting to have effortless victory instead of expecting to stand for righteousness even when it seems futile – you might need to return to the Word.
Time with the God of the Universe should fill you with peace, joy, love, confidence, purpose. But also with humility, graciousness, zeal for righteousness, sorrow over sin, and utter contempt for the idea of ‘self-reliance.’ You will know, without a doubt, that you are incapable without the empowering of the Holy Spirit – and you will rejoice in that truth.You'll never regret turning away from technology and toward your Savior. Click To Tweet
Now run – don’t walk – away from the computer or phone and grab your Bible. The one with pages, not in an app, where you can record what God teaches you in the margin. You’ll never regret turning away from technology and toward your Savior.