Sacred Space: rethinking "quiet time"
Practicing quiet time is an effective way to see God in every day life. Time with God isn't a mere task, but must become a lifestyle. | Ashley Jones/THE CHIMES
All our lives we have called spending time with God a quiet time, but over the years, I have been more and more uneasy about the term. I wanted my relationship with God to be more than just a quiet time: more than those 15 minutes per day. I wondered why the extent of my relationship with God had to be found in this “quiet time” and why it had to have that name — after all, my time with God wasn’t quite silent; I talk to God out loud in my time with him. I also wondered how to combat the recurring feelings of guilt that I’m sure you’re familiar with too.
Before I start, it’s necessary to define two terms I’ll be using so that there is no confusion. Bible reading and Bible study. Bible reading is what you do during your daily time with God. It is where you just enjoy God’s company, read the Bible and talk to him. It is not meant to be a three-hour, in-depth book study with concordances, Bible dictionaries and five different translations spread out on the table. That’s Bible study.
“You should not try to do in-depth Bible study during your quiet time. In fact, nothing will kill your quiet time faster than engaging in serious Bible study during that devotional period. Just enjoy the presence of God and fellowship with him,” Rick Warren said in his book, “Personal Bible Study Methods.”
One reason why we fail in our quiet time is our approach. Do any of the following thoughts seem familiar?
I need to fulfill a requirement in order to not feel guilty anymore.
I need to get something out of it.
I need to get this done so that it’s out of the way.
These are motivations that set us up for failure — and when we miss a quiet time, guilt plants itself in us like a rock in our gut. The guilt cycle plagues many Christians and can often be the root of spiritual depression, making it hard to pick up the Bible again.
Students I interviewed reported feeling distant from God, dissatisfied with themselves and not functioning right when they miss just one quiet time. No wonder we are seldom reading our Bibles; we feel like failures of the faith.
Somewhere along the way, we stopped reading the Bible to develop our relationship with God and started reading it to fulfill a requirement — one we imposed upon ourselves in the form of a 15-minute quiet time. Reading the Bible used to be our delight, but now it’s our duty. When it becomes our duty is when our relationship to Christ starts to die.
To restore our relationship to him, we need a right view of our time with him. I don’t have space for an exhaustive overview of spending time with God, but I will try to offer what I can.
We first need to abandon our idea of requirement and remember that it’s a relationship we want. Our time with God is not a requirement to check off, it’s the way we develop our relationship with him. Once we believe that God doesn’t want us to feel guilty when we miss a quiet time, we can be excited again about spending time with him. If you knew that your favorite author, favorite musician or greatest hero wanted to spend time with you, one-on-one, you would drop everything and make sure that you were there. At all costs, you would make it a priority.
Do you know that God, the creator of the universe and the creator of your very life, wants to meet with you? He wants to spend quality time with you to develop a deep relationship. He wants to schedule time for just you and Him. This is the opportunity of a lifetime that we have available to us every single day.
Second, we need to stop approaching quiet time with an attitude of “What can I get out of this?” It’s not about getting something out of it, but enjoying his company and communing with him. When we hang out with our best friends, we’re not looking to get something from them — we just enjoy spending time with them. They don’t have to give us anything; their company is enough. Apply the same mindset to your time with God.
Thirdly, our time with God isn’t something to check off and “get out of the way.” It is a time to meet God and grow deeper in relationship with him. We should desire to do this because we love God, not because we want to get something done.
Making your time with God unique
Keep in mind that your relationship with God should be much more than the 15 minutes a day. Our lives are off balance if we spend four hours a day with our boyfriend or girlfriend, watch a couple of hours of TV and only give God a few leftover minutes at the end of the day while we’re falling asleep.
What we call a “quiet time” is only a part of our relationship with God. Yet for most of us, our quiet time is the extent of the relationship. Who planted the idea in our mind that we can’t do anything else with God except sit quietly and read? If it were the only way you spent time with your friend, you would get bored. It’s no wonder we become bored with God.
He has given us a vibrant world in which we can connect to him in deep, exciting ways that are full of variety. I take walks with God, play music for him, go out to coffee with him and talk to him all the time about whatever is on my mind. We discuss the smallest and biggest things — I tell him everything, not just “spiritual” things. Your time with God should be unique to who you are, so try spending time with God in a way that captures the fullness of your personality. Do something fun. But be warned: your “quiet time” may just become your new favorite time of the week.