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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How to Have a Quiet Time

During the years I taught Bible study, I met many women who had never developed the habit of a daily quiet time. It wasn't that they didn't want to have a quiet time, it was that they simply didn't know exactly how. They had tried to read their Bibles, but found it didn't gel. They tried to develop a habitual prayer life, but found their minds wandered when they were praying so that they couldn't really get through their list of prayers. Because many adults didn't grow up in Christian families, they have never been taught how to have a vital, thriving quiet time with God.

So, if you haven't had a daily quiet time, how do you begin? Well, you only need fifteen minutes; any more than that is a bonus. I've met many women who don't have a quiet time because they can't find thirty minutes or an hour to do it. This is simply a tactic of the enemy to keep us from spending time with God. Honestly, if you only have five minutes, God can maximize that five minutes and make it feel like five hours, if you spend it in total dedication to Him. Don't let the enemy rob you of quiet times by telling you that it isn't worth it if you can't spend an hour. You don't need an hour. If you ever get an hour during these homeschooling years, don't tell anyone -- they'll feel condemned. But, I do recommend you try to carve out fifteen minutes. Put the kids in their own rooms to finish some work along with stern warnings not to interrupt your time with God. Or put on an approved video for them, and don't feel guilty for using the television during this time; you'll be a better person when you have a consistent quiet time. If your kids are old enough, ask them to have their own quiet times!

So, once you have that fifteen minutes in your hands, what do you do? Using Jesus' prayer as an example, the first thing I recommend is to spend time in praise and worship. Begin by proclaiming the awesomeness of God. If you aren't feeling super-duper adoring or worshipful, just continue to profess aloud the mighty truths about how wonderful and great God is. For help with this, turn to the Psalms and find one that extols God, then read it slowly aloud over and over until you begin to really experience the weight of its truth in your heart. Singing hymns and worship songs that elevate God is also helpful for this time of adoration. I print up the words to my favorite songs and tape them into the front and back covers of my Bible. I try to choose songs that focus on God's beauty, character and holiness, rather than on me and my needs, although many of my favorite hymns do both. I believe this time of praise is the most important element in your quiet time. If you don't have time for anything else, this is the key to having a closer walk with God, to defeating the enemy in your life, to dispelling the blanket of fear and anxiety that can cloud your days. Praise is the most valuable part of your quiet time, and whether spoken or sung, it should come first, even if it's the only thing you have time to do.

After a time of praise, if there is time left, I will spend time in prayer, (following the Lord's prayer again) asking God to reveal any areas I need to confess before Him, and if there is anyone I need forgive. This is an important element many people forget when they spend time in confession. You see, the Lord's prayer asks God to forgive us in the exact way that we have forgiven others. Well, that means it is very important that we forgive others, since we want God to forgive us in that same way. If we have people on our list (no matter how far back in the past) that we have not forgiven, we need to get this right before God, asking forgiveness for not having forgiven them before now.

Then, I spend time in prayer for needs, concerns, questions, my family, our health and others for whom I've promised to pray. Keeping my mind focused during prayer is resolved in only one way; that is to write my prayers down as I pray them. Yes, it does require a lot of writing, and a big spiral or blank book (I've filled up many), but it is the only way I can keep my mind set upon that for which I'm praying. The benefits of writing my prayers is that my thinking slows down to keep time with my pen, and God's voice is more audible to me. I might be writing something like "Father God, I'm worried about _____. Please Lord, give me Your peace about this. Help me to trust in You and show me what to do." And as I'm writing, I will begin to feel a distinct impression upon my spirit about something I need to do. Because I've slowed down enough through writing my prayer, I am able to concentrate long enough on the issue to feel God leading me in a certain direction. I will often continue writing about it in prayer until I feel the answer, or I feel it's time to move on.

If I have a short prayer that I have promised to pray for someone, I don't always write it out unless I feel a deep burden about that prayer. For example, if someone I don't know very well asked me to pray that their house would sell, I will pray without writing; however, if my parents asked me to pray that their house would sell, I would probably spend more time on that prayer by writing it out.

After my time of prayer writing, I open my Bible to savor God's Word. It was a while before I learned how to savor God's Word for myself. I use the term "savor" because I've learned that there is a difference between intense Bible learning and word studies, and savoring God's Word. One empowers your intellect and understanding of God, the other empowers and nurtures your love for the Lord and your ability to delight in Him, hearing His still, small voice in your heart. I think both are important, but savoring God's Word is more important, and fills your quiet times with fresh living water that can overflow into your daily life. In intense Bible learning, there can be times of savoring as well. But one does not have to be doing intense Bible study in order to find nourishment and edification for her soul in the Bible.

I'll never forget the valuable lesson taught by Elizabeth Prentiss in the book Stepping Heavenward. She conveyed the idea that it is far more instructive to our hearts to study one verse from the Bible than it is to read several chapters and come away with no meat upon which to chew. Usually this can be done by a slow and methodical reading through one book of the Bible; the New Testament is recommended.

Getting into the habit of daily Bible reading is much more manageable when you are seeking one verse upon which you will spend your day meditating, inquiring of God for understanding, and asking Him to make it true for you and your life. When seeking to understand a specific verse, you open yourself up to a two-way conversation with God, wherein He fulfills His promise to instruct you and be your Counselor. Unbelievably, the Holy Spirit will often lead you right to the verse that He wants you to learn and understand. He has hidden within your daily reading a golden nugget that is just for you. It will stand out very significantly to you, as if it were popping off the page into your face.

Choose a book of the Bible that you will read through over the course of a month or so. Ask the Lord to show you which book of the Bible He would have you begin with. There have definitely been times I've opened the Bible and God has led me right to a verse, but that is unreliable and not recommended as a regular quiet time rule. You will usually begin to feel His guidance towards a particular book. If you aren't sure, that's okay...God is patient with us even when we are so congested with the world that it has drowned out His still small voice. Just choose a shorter book from the New Testament and begin to slowly read through it. After you get through the salutations, begin to contemplate every sentence you read. Remember that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Every Scripture you read, every sentence has the potential to change your life. And we have been given the mind of Christ with which to understand Scripture; without the Holy Spirit's enabling power to comprehend, the Words in the Bible mean nothing to us.

As you contemplate the Word, ask God to give you understanding. If the meaning is not completely clear to you, inquire of God. Ask why it was written. Why is it there? Why did He say this? What is the purpose of this particular verse? To whom is this directed? How is this true? How is this important to me? How can I apply this to my life? How should I respond to this? Is this a truth I haven't fully believed, or haven't believed applies to me? Pray and ask the Lord to make every Word penetrate from your mind into your heart. Ask Him to show you what He would have you learn. When a specific Scripture jumps off the page for you, focus your attention upon it. Choose that as your Scripture meditation for the day. Note the book and chapter (you don't have to remember the specific verse, you can easily find it again if you know the book and chapter). Begin to think on this Scripture as you go about your day.
Even in your harried homeschool day, you can take a few minutes here and there to think about that Scripture, speaking to God about it. As you do this, though the world twirls around you at a fast pace, you are being obedient to God's call to set your mind on things above. And you can have faith that He will keep him (and her) in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on

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