“Preacher, I need you to tell me how to have a quiet time.”
The senior adult man sitting in my office had almost died a few weeks before in a terrifying accident and was now more serious than ever about spending time with the Lord. He dumped on my table the armload of material he’d brought with him. A well-worn Bible. Several monthly devotional guides. A Bible encyclopedia. A couple of spiritual books.
“Show me how to use this stuff,” he said.
A relationship with Jesus takes time– like other relationships
Sometimes it takes a crisis to convince us of what should be obvious. Why would we think a relationship with Jesus, though spiritual instead of material, works any differently than our other relationships?
If we don’t stay in touch with our family, we lose the sense of intimacy and closeness that makes family such a blessing.
If we don’t nurture friendships with the people we’re close to, the day will come when the relationships aren’t as warm as we need them to be.
If we lose daily contact with our job (like so many have during COVID-19), we lose the sense of mission and purpose that we need in order to get our job done—along with the personal satisfaction and fulfillment that may have led us to the job to start with.
And to follow Jesus, we must linger in his presence long enough and often enough to hear him speak.
A quiet time is when we listen to the One who speaks life and peace into our souls
A quiet time is the vital moment when we say, “Good morning, Lord” and start out the day not by listening to the voices of anxiety, fear or anger that fill the media but by listening instead to the One who speaks life and peace into our soul. That’s what Jesus means when he tells his disciples, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27).
And that’s what the man in my office was yearning for. “Preacher,” he said, “I need you to tell me how to have a quiet time.”
Here’s what I told him:
Keep things simple. Use only one devotional guide at a time. But along with a devotional guide, read through the books of the Bible one chapter at a time. Don’t look to devotional guides alone but let the Holy Spirit speak to you directly through the Word without any other filter. Nothing so deepens our faith as working through specific books in the Bible.
Buy a notebook to keep track of what God is saying to you through his Word each day. Write down your thoughts, impressions, prayers.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Have a plan but don’t get so obligated to the plan that it becomes the main thing. The main thing is to hear from God.
Keep a short prayer list. Intercession is only one part of prayer—there’s also praise, confession, lamentation, questions. Most of all, prayer is time spent simply resting in God’s presence. When my kids were little, my father’s heart was most filled simply by being with them (something that still holds true today). The same is true with our heavenly Father. For some more ideas about praying, here’s a previous blog about, “How to Talk to God in a Crisis.”
Set a pace you can maintain. Have a daily quiet time five days a week. Take Saturday off. Go to church on Sunday and worship with your family and friends. Once a month get away for a half day of personal prayer and worship, a practice that will nourish your soul in surprising ways.
I have no doubt that the man in my office will follow through on the strategy we worked out—the crisis he went through was life-changing. But the spiritual equation he came to understand is also true for the rest of us: daily quiet times lead to a deeper relationship with the Lord.
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