Monday, January 26, 2009
Quiet Time 101
Recently, a couple of people have asked me about my quiet time with the Lord. What do I do? What does a typical quiet time look like? Well, let me begin by saying that it's probably different for everyone, because we are all in different ages and stages of life. I don't think there is any one "perfect" way to have a quiet time, and when you think about it, that's appropriate, because we are imperfect people. The most important thing is that you take time to meet with the Lord each day, preferably at the beginning of the day. How much time you spend and exactly what you do is going to vary from person to person.
In this post I want to share some basic thoughts on having a quiet time, or personal devotions, or time with the Lord, or however you prefer to title it. Then I'll write a second post describing my own typical quiet time. The information I'm sharing below is a combination of my own thoughts, things my pastor has shared over the years, a workshop I attended on personal Bible study, and ideas from various books I've read. I can't recall at this point what information came from which source, so I really can't give credit where credit is due, unfortunately. I could write out the quoted Scripture verses here, but I encourage you to take a few minutes and look them up on your own.
Devotions defined. What is a quiet time? It's a time you spend alone with God and His Word. It's a time to learn what God has written in His Word, so that we might learn to do and apply what is written there. The Bible was written for each one of us -- it applies to our past, our present, and whatever the future may hold. The Bible is our personal letter from God. When we pick up our mail, we pay much more attention to our personal letters than we do to the impersonal form letters. So it should be very important to us to spend time reading our personal letter from God!
Devotions are not optional. They are as necessary for our spiritual survival as food and water are for our physical survival. We are in a literal battle against Satan and his helpers; they are out to make us useless Christians and destroy our testimony. That can actually be accomplished if we are not in God's Word daily. We need God's Word to combat the devil. When Satan begins to accuse us, we need to follow Christ's example and use God's Word to refute him. (Remember how when Jesus was tempted by Satan, He consistently quoted God's Word, saying, "It is written..." and Satan departed from Him. Read it for yourself in Luke 4:1-13.) If we don't know the verses, they won't come back to us when we need them. And we can't know the verses if we don't read, study, and memorize the Bible.
Devotions are necessary for our spiritual growth. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study God's Word. 2 Timothy 3:15 tells us what His Word is for: doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. Having devotions should be so important in our lives that we consider it a daily necessity like brushing our teeth and combing our hair. We would only neglect these things if we were too sick to do them!
Pray before beginning devotions. A good prayer to use before beginning your devotional time each day is Psalm 119:18. It's good to aim for the same time for your devotions each day -- early morning, before you really get into your day, is ideal -- but be realistic. The Lord knows all about your day and your responsibilities. If you miss a day with your devotions, don't waste time getting upset with yourself, and don't give up. Start in again the next day.
Bible reading and study should be part of your devotions. If you don't have time for an actual Bible study, then just read your Bible. Ask the Lord to show you what He has for you from His Word each day. Read carefully. Jot down that special verse or verses, and ask God to help you apply it to your life. You might want to memorize it!
Some different approaches to Bible reading and study. Here are some ideas:
* Study a particular book of the Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you toward a book that will be just what you need to study right now.
* Study a particular character in the Bible. Find out what made that person strong in the Lord, their weaknesses, how they may have failed or succeeded.
* Think of a particular weakness in your own life. Search out the answers in God's Word that will help you deal with this weakness.
* Use a study book or booklet where you write out answers to questions.
* Use a daily devotional book -- but be sure you study, and pay more attention to, the accompanying Scripture references.
* Study your Sunday School lesson, whether you are student or teacher.
* Read the Bible through in a year or more -- but don't stop your reading each day until you've learned something you can apply to your life.
* Read a chapter of Proverbs each day, corresponding with the day of the month. For example, on January 27, you would read Proverbs chapter 27. Ask God to show you something to apply to your life.
* Read through the Gospels-- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Doing this is a wonderful way to observe Jesus, our Savior, in His daily interactions with people. Since He is our Example, it's very helpful to see how He handled life's daily challenges.
A prayer time should also be part of devotions. The basics of your prayer time should be: asking God to search your heart to show you sin in your life, which you can then ask His forgiveness for; praise of God and His attributes; thanksgiving for all He has done for you; and praying for the needs of others as well as yourself. You can keep a list of requests, or you can use a prayer journal to organize the requests as I do. As an encouragement, you might write down the date you first prayed for each request and then note the date when it is answered, giving praise to the Lord as you do so.
Some helps to seeing answered prayer:
* Choose a certain time and place for prayer each day (Matthew 6:6)
* Pray specifically so you will know when God answers (John 16:24)
* Pray according to God's will (1 John 5:14-15)
* Thank God for what He has already done (Philippians 4:6)
* Be ready to do your part to see prayer answered (1 John 3:22)
* Be an example to others in your public and private life (1 Timothy 4:12)
* Be prepared for spiritual warfare. Remember that Satan does not want you to have devotions. He will fight you on this!
There are other things you might add to your quiet time. You might make this the time you work on memorizing Scripture or reviewing passages you have already learned. Singing a hymn or chorus is another way to praise God during your devotional time.
Entire books have been written on this topic. One of the best is A Place of Quiet Rest, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Many of Elizabeth George's books are helpful as well.
Whatever format you decide to use, just take the plunge and begin your quiet time today. If you've tried before and failed to have devotions on a regular basis, try again. Keep picking yourself up each time you fall and get back on the devotional track again. You can count on the fact that God will use this time to make an amazing difference in your life!