A quiet time is a spiritual habit that sets your mind, will, and emotions in tune with God. Like the strings on a guitar, the soul of a believer tends to fall out of tune with God. Hymn writer Robert Robinson said that we are “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”. Left uncorrected, an out of tune soul finds it very difficult to persistently live for Christ. The truth of God’s Word becomes difficult to understand and very difficult to incorporate into our lives.
While we await the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of our mortal bodies, and the ultimate eradication of sin, we wrestle against our fleshly tendencies toward faithlessness, laziness, lust, and the like. We are called throughout scripture to bend our hearts into subjection to the loving and redemptive leadership of Christ our King. Many believers call this daily practice of intentional “tuning” the daily quiet time.
I began guitar lessons at the age of fourteen. To my great frustration, the instructor spent the first few weeks teaching me how to properly tune the guitar. Before I learned notes, chords or songs, I learned to tune the instrument. The wise instructor knew that if I regularly practiced on an out of tune instrument my ear would never learn to recognize accurate pitch.
The principle is simple – the “A” string on a guitar is supposed to vibrate 440 times per second – this constitutes perfect tune. If it vibrates faster, the string will be sharp; if it vibrates slower it will be flat. It is impossible for the human eye to see this vibration or for the mind to count the number of vibrations, therefore, unless you have an electronic tuner – the best thing to do is simply check your out of tune instrument against an instrument that is tuned perfectly. As you listen carefully to the correct note, you can twist the keys of the guitar until it falls perfectly in tune. Once one string on the guitar is tuned, the other strings can be properly tuned around it.
The spiritual practice of a daily quiet time is very similar. It assumes that our hearts and minds drift from God’s perfect standard. Therefore, we lay ourselves beside God’s Word to properly tune ourselves to Him.
Typically, I have found that it is most helpful to set aside time in the morning to tune up, then regularly return for brief periods of prayer throughout the day, then to conclude the day with a distinct time of prayer just before I go to sleep.
The Elements of a Quiet Time:
1. Bible Reading – Dr. Tim Keller offers these suggestions for Bible reading:
- Read systematically – the Bible is a story, not a magical book of God-talk. Reading the Bible like a magic book often sounds “spiritual” – “I just open up and listen to God talk” – but it undercuts the reality of what the Bible is, what it’s about and how it communicates.
- Read strategically – pick a book of the Bible that corresponds to what you want to learn or study. If you’re struggling with joy, read Philippians; if you’re suffering, read Job or 2 Corinthians; if you want to understand the atonement, read Romans, etc.
- Listen to God by reading a passage from His Word. Don’t choose more than a chapter! Read it carefully, reverently, intelligently; read it more than once. Pick out what you think is the central thought of the passage. Record in your own words that thought and/or some other truth that has struck you. Then determine what God’s message is for you. Is there:
a. A promise to claim?
b. A sin to confess?
c. A command to obey?
d. An example to follow?
e. An error to avoid?
f. A new thought about God or Christ?
Once this is determined, record it and think of some way to practice or act upon the message, if possible.
2. Prayer – The elements of effective prayer are:
- Adoration – This is a focus and a confession of WHO God is. It focuses on His nature, character, attributes. This aspect of your prayer may be difficult at first, but as you know God more this will become more robust and glorious.
- Confession – We are told to confess our sins to God and to appropriate the work of Christ on a regular basis so that we do not allow sin to disrupt our fellowship with Him.
- Thanksgiving – Specifically, search your life and mind for what to thank God for and thank Him for it.
- Supplication – These are our requests for ourselves and others as we unload our burdens on God.