I won’t need long to convince you that relationships depend on time and energy being spent maintaining and growing them. Even long term relationships will wane when contact isn’t made.
In reality our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father is no different, the more time we spend together the stronger our relationship will be. This is seemingly a given and yet many Christians find making time to spend with our Heavenly Father really difficult.
Most of us would agree that spending regular time in God’s word and in prayer are important - but we struggle to do this consistently.
Why would this be? Are we expecting too much of ourselves and these times? May be we’re expecting them to always be monumental, mystical & exciting. Rather than the reality that our emotions fluctuate day by day, some days will be euphoric, whilst others more mundane. Actually it's really key that we don’t allow feelings to totally dictate how we spend our time!
Equally planning to spend time with God shouldn’t be done for the wrong reasons or because it just become a habit. Likewise it shouldn’t be due to peer pressure or as an end to itself. The whole point of taking time is to spend it with Jesus, as to Him, it's not meant to be an empty duty but because Father God has given us the privilege of being able to spend time in his presence.
Ok so what next?
Well, if you agree that this should be a priority then what’s next? It is vital that we find a place in our lives for God to speak to us through his word, where we can pray, listen & learn to respond to his direction.
However its important that we don’t emphasise a one size fits all method, inevitably one method will work for some people, but may leave others feeling condemned or left out. God will speak to each one of us in different ways, and at different times. We are all unique, uniquely gifted and with a unique perspective. Some people will find that making some extra time in the morning works well for them, whilst others find that a different time during the day is better.
It’s not so much the timing, or even really the length but the consistency of choosing to spend time in God’s presence - it can’t fail to change us!
Building to a method
- Be persistent & consistent - this is key, rather take a few minutes per day than longer times every other day
- Expect Interruptions - but ask those who do interrupt you to give you some space. If you find your electronic devices are a distraction then switch them off or onto a different mode so they won’t disturb you! Plan your way around distractions rather than finding them frustrating
- If you aren’t using a reading plan or the Bible In One year then use a calendar to mark off the days you’ve managed - this will help you be consistent.
Method / Structure
- Have a plan, the simpler the plan the more likely you are to do it and keep on doing it
There are lots of ways to have a quiet time, you could use the following as a basis:
- Be Quiet - take a few moments to calm down and be quiet
- Pray - ask God to speak to you, let him know you are listening
- Read - some scripture, try to read slowly, the slower you read the more likely you are to take things in. God will speak to you if you give him space.
- Think over what you’ve read - think about what you’ve read, what it means, how it applies. Many people call this meditation - we’ll have a look at this in more detail later
- Write It Down - value what you hear God saying, write it down, keep a record
- Pray again - thank God for what he has shown you & anything else on your mind
There is a method of prayer which uses the word ACTS to help you remember:
A - Adoration - thanking God for who he is, reflect on his greatness, love & mercy
C - Confession - ask for forgiveness for sin, accept God’s forgiveness & the work of the cross
T - Thanksgiving - being thankful - thank Him for family, friends, business, church, hardships(?), challenges & blessings (both yours & those of others) - being grateful transforms our outlook
S - Supplication - Asking God for things, ask for others, ask for yourself, include people in your immediate friendship group as well as national and international events, friends, family, for people who haven’t heard the Good News. Meditating on scripture
The sort of meditation we’re talking about here is not mystical or transcendental. Biblical meditation is basically about focussing one’s thoughts on, pondering, thinking on, musing on a particular scripture. Its all about reflective thinking or contemplation on a specific subject to discern its meaning, significance or to form an action plan. How do I meditate on Scripture?
- Start by choosing or locating the next passage in your plan.
- Read around the passage, read the sections before and after it to get an idea of it's setting & theme.
- Write down a summary of its content
- Write down in your own words what it is saying
- Look at some key words in the passage and write out their opposites to reveal more about what the original words mean.
- Implement it - make it personal, apply it to a need, challenge, opportunity or an area which you find difficult. How does it relate to your life?
- Pray back its content / promises to God
- Parallel Passages - look at the passages which directly relate to it in other parts of scripture - most Bibles have linked passages in the footnotes.
- List things you don’t understand - discuss them with a trusted friend or leader
- Helping others - how could you use this scripture to help / encourage others
Ask yourself some further questions
- Further study - write out what you could do to further study this passage - read a book on the same theme etc.
a command I need to obey?
a promise I need to request?
a sin to avoid / repent of?
a lesson to learn?
a new truth to remember?Help I’m Still Stuck!
So you’ve missed day, you’ve tried all sorts of different things and they don’t seem to work or you’ve been doing this ‘quiet time’ thing for a while and its just gone stale - what can you do? Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve missed a day!
Try not to miss a day, but be gracious to yourself, you will sometimes miss one. The more regularly you have a quiet time, the easier it will become. Get back into the swing of it. To really maintain a regular quiet time most people will find that it is much easier to do it every day. Don’t forget: quiet times aren’t performances, requirements or done for brownie points! They are there to build your relationship with God and to help you spend time with Him. Accountability
If you’ve tried all these ideas and are still struggling, ask someone to hold you accountable for a while - maybe until you’ve established a regular pattern or found the time which best suits you and been able to sustain it for a good period. Creation - take some time out
Creation surrounds us, and we know that it “declares the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), so often we can be too busy to take some time out and actually be a part of it. Why not take some time and go for a walk (even if it is raining!) or get out of the city to see the stars properly. This can help draw our focus away from ourselves and back onto God. Often I find myself rejoicing and praising God for his wonder in creation - this can kick start our times with him. Consider the work of his hands (Psalm 8:3) just as the Psalmist did and allow it to draw you to worship / prayer and away from the things that are crowding in.Intersperse Your Day with The Bible
Ok so you’ve tried but you can’t carve out specific time when you haven’t got any other distractions in your day to read the bible or pray. Why not consider signing up to get an email with your daily reading on it or use an app which will send you a number of pop up reminders or emails with passages to read throughout your day? (See apps at the end for more)During Exercise
Many of us have a regular exercise routine, whether that be going to the gym or in the open air. You might use this as time to unwind. Why not swap your musical playlist for a biblical one? You could do this by using one of the many bible apps or online reading notes. You could also look for some podcasts or audio books to listen to whilst you exercise.Bible AppsgoTandem
(sends reminder emails or pop up notifications
)BiOY - Bible In One Year - HTB
(bible readings & notes to help you read the bible in a year
) ESV Bible
- FULL ESV bible
YouVersion - youversion.com
(includes reading plans & different bible versions
) NIV Audio Bible - Read by David SuchetAlso available to listen to on YouVersion Bible App