How To Have a Meaningful Quiet Time
Time is precious. The Christian’s quiet time before God is even more so. In an age where gadgets and apps are designed to save us time, we end up feeling as if we don’t have enough of it. As a result, the believer’s quiet time is the first thing to suffer. Twice, Paul challenged believers to redeem their time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). Surely, this need to rescue time reaches into our quiet time as well.
So then, how do we effectively redeem this time before God. Or how do we make it more meaningful, more beneficial, in a busy, bustling life? As with many aspects of practical Christianity, there isn’t a definitive, step-by-step, ‘how to’ guide. However, the Bible emphasizes repeatedly the necessity for personal communion with the Lord.
‘O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day’ was the Psalmist’s cry (Psalm 119: 97). Incidentally, the Psalms provide for us excellent examples of God-centred devotion. This means that drawing near to God and spending time in His presence is a must. So here are three key aspects of what is involved in making your own quiet time more meaningful.
Finding a place in which you can close yourself away can prove more difficult than expected – especially if you share a room with a sibling or if there is a lot of ‘coming and going’. In these instances, if the home is a Christian one, then mutual respect should be shown. Members of the family must allow time for everyone to have his own quiet time.
The Lord Jesus spoke of the need for a place for prayer, ‘But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret’, Matthew 6:6. He also led by example. On more than one occasion, we read of our Lord getting alone to pray; for example, see Matthew 14:23. Here, the importance of His quiet time is brought home to us by the narrative that follows. Read the rest of the passage and take note of why His time in prayer was of such importance. Your time alone with God in your place is to be guarded, dear believer! It may not always be the same place – our circumstances change. Also, remember that praying as we drive in the car, reading through some devotional on a train, or listening to a sermon as we walk, although good and edifying pursuits, can never take the place of that personal time when we carefully read God’s Word and readily pray before His face.
There are many simple things that can be done when preparing for quiet time.
Firstly, make the time. Again the Psalms direct us here: ‘O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee’ (Psalm 63:1). While it can’t be said that this is a Divine command as such, yet none can deny the benefit of time spent before God before facing the world. Some may be in employment that calls for very early starts. You will need to set a time to suit this, but generally speaking, quiet time should be early in the day.
Secondly, remove the distractions. Turn phones, tablets and anything that makes a distracting sound, off! The temptation to check for messages is too great. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait. Whatever the distractions, do everything to eliminate them.
These aren’t our only distractions, of course. There are unseen, spiritual ones. Maybe a heavy heart, troubled mind or guilty conscience hinders you before or during your time with the Lord. Remember the Christian’s great privilege is to cast all cares upon God, in the knowledge of His unfailing care for us. Nothing is worse than endeavouring to read and pray while a thousand troubles are weighing down the mind. The remedy for such things is a fresh sight of the Saviour by faith. Sweet contemplation of being ‘accepted in the Beloved’ will strengthen the soul no end, and confirm to the heart that it is by Him we draw near to God in full assurance of faith.
Thirdly, know what you are going to do. The reading of God’s Word and earnest prayer are not empty religious rituals that are there to be ticked off in order to appease the conscience. These are holy times, which Satan himself seeks to prevent. Each Christian must decide how much he is going to read. There is no minimum or maximum amount in this respect. Working your way through the Bible in one year is commendable, but not essential. It is better to read a shorter portion well, having understood what you have read, rather than reading many chapters carelessly and finishing none the wiser. When in prayer, have some prayer points at hand. One option is to keep a journal in which names and needs for prayer can be noted.
Meditation is unquestionably an integral part of our quiet time. In modern times, the thought of meditation to the unchristian mind conjures up the idea of aimless, thoughtless silence. The true meaning of the word could not be more different. The first instance in which the verb ‘meditate’ is used in Scripture directs us to Isaac, ‘And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming’ (Genesis 24:63). Here the word means to ‘muse’. The Psalmist also wrote about musing,
‘I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands’ (Psalm 143:5). Consider God’s instruction in Joshua 1:8, ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night’. Here the concept remains the same, that of pondering and thinking over.
Further study of this word will reveal to us that God’s people ought to be meditating, that is, prayerfully thinking, upon God – His ways, His works, His words. Too often, the Christian’s quiet time becomes a selfish time. We ponder our problems, we focus on our fears, and reflect on all our regrets. Our quiet time should be a time when, both in prayer and reading, we meditate upon the God of our salvation and His matchless glory!
Rev. Patrick Baker.