When having an effective quiet time, it’s important to have the right heart, time, place and plan. If your time with the Lord is lacking, consider which of these four elements could stand a little improvement. Several years ago now I came upon an excellent article by pastor Zach Schlegel on the importance of all four elements. He granted me permission to share it with our church family then, and I’m certain you will benefit as well.
The Right Heart…. Expectant – The writer of Hebrews reminds us that those who in faith seek after God can expect the reward of God Himself (Hebrews 11:6; also Jeremiah 29:12-13). Willingness to Obey – If we come listening not for what God has to say to us, but what we want; chances are we won’t hear Him. In John’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that coming with a willing heart is important (John 7:17). Teachable and Humble – When coming before the King of kings, the proper attitude is humility, not pride; being teachable, not a know it all (James 1:19-21; 4:6; Psalm 119:33-34).
The Right Time…Morning, afternoon or evening? In deciding when to have your quiet time, choose the time that you are at your best: alert, focused, and fresh. Jesus’ custom was to meet with the Father early in the morning (Mark 1:35), and for many people, that’s the best way to start the day. But whatever you decide, make sure to be consistent with it and to schedule it in your calendar as you would any other important meeting! How long will your quiet time be? If having a quiet time is new to you, start with a shorter amount of time and then build up as your appetite increases. Everyone is different, just be sure to give yourself ample time to slow down, read, pray, and reflect. If beforehand we decide and schedule how long (at a minimum) our quiet time will be, it not only frees up our schedule, but cultivates the discipline of slowing down and giving God our best time.
The Right Place…Comfortable and quiet; Good lighting. Free of distractions: Turn off your TV, phone, or internet – anything that would distract. Have a pen and notebook handy to write down the “To do” list that comes to your mind; if you’ve written it down, you can forget it and come back to it later.
The Right Plan… Why a plan? Why is discipline so important? For some type “A” personalities, these may seem like silly questions; but others cringe at the idea of having a plan and being disciplined with it – why not just be free and ‘let it happen’? Having a plan is not meant to be a rigid set of rules; but many times we don’t spend time with God because we have no plan.
Elton Trueblood explains the relationship between discipline and freedom saying, “We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom…that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding. The one who would be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endurance. With one concerted voice, the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life: Discipline is the price of freedom.” —-Zach Schlegel, blog 11.11.2009