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Prayer and the daily quiet time.

3 Benefits of Praying Out Loud

Megaphone
Photo by Floeschie

We’ve all been there. We start out praying only to realize that we’ve spent the last fifteen minutes wondering if Lee Harvey Oswald really acted alone.

I’m not talking about group prayer meetings where we each get a chance to be “on stage.” I’m referring to the times when we get alone with God and tell Him what’s on our heart.

Some Christians think of prayer as a silent, boring, and mysteriously telepathic exercise. While God hears everything, even our thoughts, we’re not wired to communicate in this way. If silent prayer isn’t working for you, why not just pray out loud?

I can think of at least 3 reasons to pray out loud. And each one can improve your daily quiet time.

Praying out loud pushes us to find a place of solitude

[quote style=”boxed”]But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. (Matthew 6:6)[/quote] While Jesus, in Matthew 6:6, is telling us how to avoid pride in our prayer life, it occurs to me that there is another great benefit of getting alone. Sometimes our prayer life is weak or nonexistent because we ignore the pitfalls that lead to distractions. Though privacy isn’t always an option, we should strive to make it our first choice when we can. Seeking the freedom to pray out loud is a good way to choose the best place to meet with God.

If you prefer to have your quiet time in a coffee house or a restaurant and that’s working for you, that’s fine. But if you struggle to pray in those settings, I encourage you to find a better place.

Unless you’re a little weird, you probably don’t want to pray out loud at Starbucks or McDonalds (and nobody else wants you to either). It’s also too easy to be distracted by other conversations or friends. Often times there are newspapers with enticing headlines laying around and, before you know it, you didn’t pray and it’s time to go to work. One key to consistency in your prayer life is to get alone.

But how alone?

An ideal place is one where you can openly talk to God about anything without fear that others might hear you. You don’t have to pray your darkest secrets out loud. I’m just suggesting that you should be able to if you so desire.

If we’re praying for our deepest needs, prayer becomes an intimate act. We should feel the freedom to express our emotions. Being around others can be inhibiting. You’ll feel freer to be a child before your Heavenly Father if you’ll find a place of solitude. If we desire to pray out loud, we’ll be more selective in where we choose to meet with God.

Praying out loud helps us to stay focused

[quote style=”boxed”]Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)[/quote] Some days our mind is like a freeway during rush hour. Thoughts race by on every side. It’s easy for our silent prayers to get car-jacked by rogue thoughts.

On other days we’re hardly present. If we’re not alert, our prayer times can easily become unscheduled naps.

In these situations, it helps to pray out loud. When we speak, our words call us to attention and overrule the disruptive thoughts. And It’s hard to ramble aimlessly without noticing it when we’re praying out loud.

I’ve also noticed that when I’m running late, praying out loud helps me to stay on track and cover more territory in a shorter amount of time.

If your mind is constantly wandering, praying out loud will keep you focused on the conversation you’re having with God.

Praying out loud adds an element of intimacy in our relationship with God

Imagine that you read a travel guide filled with beautiful pictures of the Grand Canyon. Then one day you travel there. Upon arrival you are given two options: You can close your eyes in an attempt to remember the beautiful images from the book. Or you can open your eyes and experience it in real time. Both ways would work. But using your eyes makes more sense.

In the same way, it makes sense to talk to God using words from our mouth. That’s how we typically communicate with someone who is in our midst. Just because God is all-knowing doesn’t mean that we should only pray to Him via our thoughts.

Speaking to Christ in the same way that the disciples did helps us to grow in intimacy with Him. He is a real person and we can know Him. If He doesn’t seem very real to you today, perhaps it would help to interact with Him as though He were in the same room with you. As a matter of fact, He is!

So get alone. Be comfortable. And lift your voice to the God of your creation.

You don’t have to do it this way. And God will still hear your prayers if you don’t. But if you would like to add an element of intimacy to your relationship, talk to God as though you were sharing your heart with the most caring and loving person you’ve ever met. As a matter of fact, you are!

The Quiet Time: Legalistic Rule or Helpful Tool?

Ten Commandments
Photo by @jbtaylor

I’m not aware of a single Bible verse that commands us to have a daily quiet time. So if we’re looking for an excuse, we may be off the hook. And if we’re struggling with guilt over this practice, maybe we shouldn’t. After all, isn’t that a terrible motive for spending time with someone?

On the other hand, why wouldn’t we choose to spend at least a few minutes of dedicated time with God every day? Why would we tell the world that Jesus is the most important person in our lives while secretly treating Him like a stranger? I don’t want to discourage anyone. But I have to ask a question: Are we attempting to follow someone that we don’t enjoy being alone with?

I believe every Christian should have a daily quiet time. But I don’t think it’s a requirement. It’s just a tool. And if we make it a law, we will soon find ourselves swimming in a pool of guilt or pride. But if we see it as a space to practice disciplines that are encouraged and modeled in the Scriptures, it becomes a blessing that helps us to grow in Christ.

By “quiet time,” I’m referring to the daily practice of dedicating anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more to reading God’s Word, meditation, and prayer. So often, the Bible seems to present these actions as the all-consuming passion of the man or woman of God. With a quiet time, we’re just creating a small compartment in our busy day for practices that should permeate our lives anyway.

Instead of being an end in itself, a quiet time is the appetizer to a meal that we should be enjoying all day long. Ideally, it stimulates our desire for the things of God.

The quiet time helps us to develop a love for God’s Word

[quote style=”boxed”]This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)[/quote]

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with doing anything “day and night.” Yet the Bible emphasizes the blessings that come to those who are always meditating on God’s Word. (see also Psalm 1:1-3) I don’t think this means we should live in a cave and recite Bible verses 24/7. But we can get to a place where the Word of God is ever on our hearts. It can impact our decisions throughout the day. We can grow in our understanding of God’s character and experience a deeper walk with Him. But we can’t if we won’t cultivate a love for God’s Word.

I have found that a daily quiet time provides a bite-sized way to make God’s Word a part of my life. It’s manageable. I can do it. It’s a place to start.

As I’ve prioritized this daily appointment with God, I’ve seen my love for the Scriptures soar. I’ve also discovered that the Bible is practical. I’m often amazed at how the passages of Scripture I read in the morning speak to my needs that very day. Over the years, as I have developed this daily routine, my appetite for God’s Word has increased.

If you haven’t been using a daily quiet time to grow in your love for God’s Word, I encourage you to give it a try. You may be surprised at how quickly you notice the change.

The quiet time helps us to develop a prayer life

[quote style=”boxed”]Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)[/quote]

Prayer is a lot like jogging or riding a bike or golfing. It’s not always easy at first. But then we start to experience the benefits and the joy of it. It gets into our blood. We come to love it. We look for opportunities to do it. There are days when it seems harder than it did the day before and times when it appears to be unproductive. And there are days when it’s exhilarating. In time, we become a runner, or a cyclist, or a golfer, or a person of prayer.

We can dabble in it. Or we can take it seriously. You can imagine what a difference either approach will make.

The Apostle Paul tells us to pray for everything (Philippians 4:6-7). He also tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Does this mean that we should just pray “on the fly,” as issues pop into our minds? There’s nothing wrong with that. I would love to engage in a never-ending conversation with God as I go through my day. I think that would be healthy. But what is it about our experience with prayer that makes us feel a need to multi-task while doing it? Isn’t prayer worthy, on its own, of a little dedicated effort?

In some ways, to “pray without ceasing” doesn’t take any discipline or effort on our part. It has the same appeal as the ads that tell us we can make money while watching TV or lose weight without diet or exercise. We kid ourselves into believing that prayer will be our “lifestyle” when we don’t believe in it enough to actually make it a priority.

A daily quiet time can help us to prioritize the discipline of prayer. It gives us the time and space to pray for a few things as we develop a heart to pray for everything.

The reverse to that approach never worked for me. I found that if I didn’t have a consistent daily time set aside for prayer, I also didn’t pray much throughout the remainder of my day. Having a time for prayer helps me to be more prayer-minded throughout the entire day.

I’m not advocating that we pray until it becomes a habit. I’m suggesting that we pray until we see the hand of God at work in our prayers. That is what ultimately makes us people of prayer.

 It’s good to have a daily quiet time

In the realm of things that I can control, nothing in my spiritual life has helped me more than deciding to spend at least a few minutes alone with God every day. It has helped me to grow in my love for God’s Word and to become more of a man of prayer. Of course, it’s God, and not the quiet time, that has brought about the transformation.

My daily quiet time is an imperfect attempt on my part to prioritize my relationship with God. But I have found it to be a wonderful tool to help me grow in Christ. Thankfully, God has chosen to bless me through this simple daily commitment.

I know that there is a lot of guilt-ridden baggage associated with the daily quiet time. But I think that stems from making the quiet time a law instead of seeing it as a tool. While you may be able to make a compelling case that the quiet time is not commanded in Scripture, I can think of no good reason not to have one anyway.

So in the spirit of grace, I encourage you to make time for God, His Word, and prayer every day. You’ll be blessed if you do.

What about you? What has been your experience with the daily quiet time? Does this subject fill you with thoughts of legalism or grace? Please give your responses in the comments section below.

7 Prayer Requests That Will Instantly Improve Your Daily Quiet Time

Photo of Sticky Note "Help"
Photo by Dimitri Neyt

The most important discovery I ever made about the daily quiet time is that God provides a wealth of instant help. By “instant,” I mean – always available, whenever we want it, whenever we ask. As we read the Bible, we have the awesome privilege of asking God to make it come alive in our hearts.

Disclaimer: A quiet time is not a Bible study

There is a difference between casually reading the Bible during our quiet time and a more intensive Bible study. The focus of this article, and this website, is the daily quiet time. The suggestions below are not intended to take the place of digging deeper and applying good principles of interpretation. And I strongly believe in surrounding ourselves with good Bible teachers and scholarly resources. But no matter when we approach the Scriptures, we should develop the habit of asking for God’s help, as is modeled in Psalm 119.

If you want to get the most from your daily Bible reading, consider adding some, or all, of the following 7 prayer requests to your quiet time.

1. “Teach me.”

Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! (Psalm 119:29)

At least 8 times in Psalm 119, the writer asks God to be his teacher. Have you ever wondered what kind of teacher God would be? Would He emphasize the best points? Would He make it relevant? What about His command of the material? After all, it is His law.

If you wanted to learn to play the guitar or fly an airplane or be a surgeon, can you imagine the advantage of having the most accomplished person in that field as your personal tutor?

God’s resources are infinitely better. He doesn’t just know truth. He is truth. As we read God’s Word, there is wisdom in asking Him to be our teacher. (see also Psalm 119:12,26,29,33,64,66,108,171)

2. “Give me understanding.”

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. (Psalm 119:73)

Our Creator knows us inside and out. He understands how our hearts and minds are wired. And He’s aware of our passions and hopes. More than anyone, He sees our greatest need at this very moment. When it comes to our individual styles of learning, He always knows how best to impress His truths upon our hearts. The author of the Bible is the Creator of our souls. Who better to help us understand what He wants us to learn today? (see also Psalm 119: 27,34,125,144,169)

3. “Strengthen me.”

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! (Psalm 119:28)

Our lives are filled with many trials. Difficult circumstances can tempt us to disregard God’s Word. In those moments, we need His life-giving love and mercy to continue walking in obedience. Some days we need it just to open the Bible. On our worst days, our most eloquent prayer might simply be “Help!” Remember that in good times or bad, we are equally in need of the counsel of God’s Word. (see also Psalm 119:25,40,88,156)

4. “Open my eyes.”

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

Looking back, I see that I spent many years trying to read the Bible with my eyes closed. I read it as a goal to be checked off of a list. I read it out of compulsion. I read it selfishly, trying to see what was in it for me. But I rarely read it just to behold the wonder and glory of God. This verse provides a backdrop for what I discuss in  My Journey: Getting Personal With God. It tells me that there are wonderful things to discover in the Bible. But it also tells me that I am dependent upon God to see them. For those reasons, I have been praying it daily for several years. And God has been faithful to answer. This has truly become a life verse for me.

5. “Incline my heart.”

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! (Psalm 119:36)

I used to think that our spiritual growth depended entirely upon practicing certain disciplines. But the problem is that our flesh is wired for the world. As new creatures in Christ, we still struggle with the sin nature. And if we try to walk in our own strength, we will naturally lean toward our selfish desires. So we must ask God to give us the desire to live out what we read in the Bible. For me, this has been a liberating discovery. It’s a prayer request that always honors God. Do you want your heart to beat in rhythm with God’s Word? Ask Him to make it so.

6. “Turn my eyes.”

 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in your ways. (Psalm 119:37)

Following Christ in the 21st century is a lot like surfing the internet. We have an idea of where we want to go. But we often end up somewhere else. The problem is not with Christ. It’s with our lack of focus. We don’t realize how prone we are to distractions.

The enemy is not passive. The interruptions are not an accident. Satan studies you and develops an advertising campaign to lure you in. And I’m not just referring to sin. He loves to waste your time with information and activities that serve no eternal purpose.

As you walk the obstacle course of life, ask God to turn your eyes from the worthless things that amount to nothing in the end. Ask that your focus be on His life-giving ways instead.

7. “Keep steady my steps.”

 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. (Psalm 119:133)

In Genesis 4, God warns of the controlling nature of sin. It crouches at the door, waiting to catch us off-guard. Sin doesn’t just fill us with regret and guilt. It seeks to own us.

I’m amazed at how thin the line can be between a healthy pleasure and an enslaving addiction. The things that bring us the greatest joy in life can also destroy us. How do we have balance? How do we know when moderation moves to excess? How do we walk with wisdom?

Since both paths can often look deceptively similar, we need God’s guidance with each step. Knowing God’s Word is essential to choosing the right path. And having God’s hand as we walk keeps us from falling off course.

Practical application

God is our greatest ally in understanding and applying His Word. And His help is always available. Ask God to transform your quiet times and your life as you pray these requests from Psalm 119. Here are some suggestions:

  • For each of the next 7 days, pray one of these verses before reading the Bible.
  • Think about which verse is most needed in your life right now, and commit it to memory.
  • Pray these same requests for others, such as your spouse, your children, or a pastor.

How do you see these verses making a difference in your devotional life? Let me know in the comments section below.