If you’ve been inconsistent in meeting with God, could it be that you’ve added some unnecessary “requirements” to your daily quiet time? While a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, it’s even easier to not begin at all.
I find it helpful to break a quiet time into two steps. First, listen to God. Second, respond to God.
God speaks to us in a general sense through the wonders of His creation. And He speaks to us explicitly through what He has revealed in the Bible.
We respond to God in prayer and by living out what we have learned.
We can add any number of steps or expectations to our daily devotions. But at the core, it comes down to listening to God and responding to God. We should only add practices to our quiet time that help us to accomplish these two goals.
Don’t over-analyze your quiet time
Sometimes we approach our devotional life in the way that I learned to bowl as a kid. In my very first game, I threw the ball straight up into the air and it bounced into another lane before going into the gutter. I was mortified.
But in a bowling alley, everyone quickly becomes your coach. In no time I had more advice than I could handle. Among other things, I learned that the ball was too light. The holes were too small. My posture was wrong. I was aiming at the wrong spot. I was releasing the ball improperly. I lacked follow-through. And with each frame, I was given another list of well-intended advice.
But it was too much. I couldn’t apply it all. Each time I threw the ball, I was trying to remember ten things at once. I became so frustrated that I didn’t want to bowl anymore.
Have you ever felt that way when it comes to your daily quiet time? Do you approach each day with a long list of deficiencies? Maybe you have an idea of what your spiritual life is supposed to look like. And maybe you’ve concluded that it’s out of reach.
Advice abounds in the Christian life. And it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In learning to bowl, I finally realized that I had to focus on one step at a time. And as each step became natural, I would add another one. With your quiet time, avoid the urge to fix everything today.
Optional quiet time practices
In the future, I will address many of the optional practices that can enhance our daily devotions. I rely on several of these myself. But as helpful as they are, they can also keep us from God if we become legalistic about them. Here are 7 examples of what I’m talking about:
- Following a Bible reading plan
- Establishing a certain amount of time to spend with God every day
- Believing a quiet time should be in the morning or evening or at some other set time
- Going through a prayer list every day
- Needing a certain place to meet with God
- Needing to be completely alone or free from distractions
- Expecting to discover a life-changing insight or application every day
All of these can be good for us. But none are requirements for getting started today.
How to get started
If you would like to begin, I’ll offer two suggestions:
- Read from the Bible.
- Respond to God in prayer and obedience.
We’ll talk more about these in the future. But for now, keep it simple.
Quiet time exercise
As a practical exercise for today, read Psalm 19.
The first 6 verses reveal how God speaks to us through His creation.
In verses 7 to 11 we are told of the blessings of God’s Word.
Verses 12 to 14 conclude with a prayerful response to God in light of His revelation.
What comes to mind as you read this psalm? Do you want to worship God? Are you thankful? Do you have questions about some of the verses? All of these, and more, are fair game as you respond to God in prayer.
What do you think about this simple approach to a quiet time? Which is easier for you: listening to God or responding to God? Please share your comments below.