We all want to spend time with God. And we all, somehow, have trouble doing it.
We’ve heard sermons on why it matters, listened to stories from friends about how it helped their day, and had some great experiences reading and praying ourselves. So what’s the problem? Why is it so hard for us who follow God to meet with Him daily?
I’ve struggled with this off and on for years. I absolutely love studying the Bible and talking to God. I work in ministry – so I’m reminded daily that without God, I’ve got nothing. With all my starting, stopping, and stumbling along the way, I have learned some things. These days, I know more about how to reset myself when I realize that my time with God has fallen out of my daily rhythms. Again.
5 Steps to Creating a Consistent Quiet Time
1. Set a Time
The first thing a consistent quiet time needs is a place on your schedule. If I go into a day without a plan for when I will have a quiet time, it’s not likely to happen. But, if I begin a day with a time set aside to meet with God, there’s actually a good chance I’ll do it.
The problem with sticking to our quiet times is not desire. Quite often, we do want to meet with God – thanks to the work of his Spirit in us. The problem is our patterns. We function mostly based on our habits. And if there is no set place where we’ve trained ourselves to sit and pray, it’s much less likely to happen. I learned this about myself through reading a new book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I’d recommend it if you’d like to learn more about how to reset your habits and patterns.
So, pick a time and place (and way to be alone if you’re a mom with kids). For me, it works to have the same time everyday. If I try to vary it based on different days, I get all confused and make excuses more easily. But, if you’re like my nurse roommate who works three 12-hours shifts and then has four days off, you may need to have two main times – one for days you work and one for days you don’t. So do what works for you.
2. Use Your Cues
It also helps to have other things, called cues, tied to your quiet time. This is something else I learned from The Power of Habit that has made all the difference. Our habits function based on cues and rewards. But often, we try to set them only on a specific time. The problem is, we get lost in other things, check the clock, and our time has passed. If we set our routine based on cues (as well as making the time in our schedule), completing our goal is much easier.
So what does that mean? For example, I try read the Bible in the morning. I could just tell myself to sit down and do it at 7:30am no matter what. But I’ve found it’s much easier if I tie my quiet time to my morning routine. I get up, put on my slippers, and walk to the kitchen. I start the coffee machine, pour a bowl of cereal, and sit down to read the Bible as I eat breakfast and wait for the coffee to be ready. Cereal is my cue. When I pour cereal, my brain naturally reminds me to open the Bible and read it. I let my morning activities point me to my quiet time. And, as it happens, that usually tends to place it at about 7:30am anyway.
3. Debunk Your Excuses
Besides not having an established habit, our excuses are our quiet time’s worst enemy. I’ve found that I have a couple of thoughts that regularly pop into my head and drive me somewhere else. One of mine is, “I have too much to do.” When I act on this, I take my cereal and go get ready for the day instead of spending that time with God, all in the name of getting more done.
So how do we take control back from our excuses? First, we have to recognize what they are. From there, we can plan a response. Now, whenever I think I should do something else in the morning to get ahead, I initiate my planned response and say, “Well, you might get a few minutes ahead, but your whole day will be out of perspective and you’ll actually wind up a day behind in your life with God.” It convinces me. So that’s what I go with.
So what are your excuses? Identify them. And then come up with a plan of attack. When you’re excuse cycle is triggered with one of those thoughts, how will you respond?
4. Get Focused
Getting focused by having a plan for my quiet time is a way I address one of my other excuses: that a quiet time is aimless and won’t actually accomplish anything. If I don’t enter a quiet time with a plan (will I read? if so what? will I pray? journal?), then I feel like I’m wandering around in the spiritual woods without getting anywhere. So it helps me to know my focus in advance. Am I learning about the word by reading through a book of the Bible? Am I praying to know God? Praying for others? Journalling? Meditating? You can always change your focus as your times with God grow and change, but start with a plan.
5. Just Do It
And for the grand finale… you have to actually do it. You can read this post ten times, but if you just keep moving through your days in the same way, it won’t change anything. The good news is it doesn’t have to end like that.
We can effect our lives. We can have a consistent time with God. But for that to happen, you have to act. Get away from the computer for a minute and think of a time, some habit-forming cues, and a focus for your new quiet time. Identify the excuses that derail you and plan how to respond to them. Ask God to help you follow through. And then tomorrow, when you wake up, follow whatever plan you made. Pour your cereal and open the Bible. Come home from work and journal. Sit and pray for others before you get in bed. Whatever your game plan is, just do it. Get started, and adjust as you go.
And remember, you’re not alone. We all have to work on this. So get a friend to talk to. Or a roommate to remind you. And receive grace from God as you work to follow him. There’s plenty to go around.
Question: What usually hinders your ability to have a consistent quiet time? Which step will be most important for you?