WHAT YOU NEED FOR AN EFFECTIVE QUIET TIME:
1. A definite time and place.
2. A good-sized, easily read Bible.
3. A prayer list or prayer cycle.
4. A personal notebook.
5. A spirit of expectancy.
If you and I were to discuss the matter personally, probably you would say that it is a most commendable practice for every Christian to have a daily meeting with God through God’s Word, the Bible, and prayer. And you would be right, of course. Except that this daily communion, this “quiet time” with God, is more than a commendable practice; it is absolutely vital to a life of sustained spirituality, effectiveness, and love. It is a barometer of the Christian life. Let me sustain that position. Jesus said, “Men shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Read that without the negative comparison and you will see what man is to live on. “Man shall live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Literally it is: “Man shall live by every spoken word that comes from God.”
That is not the Bible memorized, nor the Bible on your bookshelf or in your study. It is the word that God speaks to your soul in the quiet place of meditation on the Bible. That is how man lives. You can be doctrinally correct, and yet be spiritually dead. The thing that maintains life is the living word of God which is spoken to your soul every day. The quiet time is vital to spiritual health, whether you are newly converted or a mature Christian (see 1 Pet. 2:2 and Heb. 5:14).
The quiet time is vital for spiritual cleansing. You are initially cleansed of sin by the precious blood, that is true, and again and again you have to come back to the cross for restoration. But the day-by-day cleansing of wrong thinking and living is from God’s Word (see Psa. 119:9; Rom. 12:2; Phil. 4:8). The quiet time is also vital to spiritual counsel. You can never know the true principles that determine a life of holiness and righteousness without letting the Word of God “dwell in you richly” (see 2 Tim. 3:16 and Psa. 73:24).
The quiet time is likewise vital in equipping you for spiritual conflict. The supreme example is our Lord Jesus Christ when He encountered Satan in the wilderness. I feel sure that for forty days and nights He had fed his soul on the book of Deuteronomy, and could therefore make His sword thrusts from a personal experience of the written Word. Paul later exhorted the believers at Ephesus to “take … [unto them] the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17).
Important as all these things are, however, the greatest incentive to your having a quiet time each day is not your own need, great as that is, but the fact that God wants to meet with you. Therefore, it is not merely a duty; it is a privilege and an honor. God in Christ, your Lord, has a trusting place with you. His heart is saddened when you fail to keep the appointment. He longs, as He did with the woman of Samaria, to drink afresh of your love, devotion, and worship (see Jn. 4:23-24). I would warn you that establishing your quiet time is never easy. As a minister, I will confess frankly that it is harder for me to have my quiet time now than it was when I was first converted. The reason for this is that what counts costs. You will find that the most vicious attacks of the adversary will be directed toward robbing you of that daily time with your Lord. And you will have to guard it fearlessly if you are to keep it. Whatever your sphere of service – as a pastor, Sunday school teacher, missionary, or Christian in the office or home – I give you little hope of living victoriously unless you are successful in maintaining your quiet time. But now I want to turn to some practical and specific requirements which I feel are necessary for the quiet time.
First, you will need a definite place and time – that almost goes without saying. And don’t ever say you can’t have a quiet time because you haven’t a place or a pre-arranged time. Consider again the example of the Lord Jesus (see Mk. 1:35). Next, have a good-sized Bible, one whose print you do not have a strain to read. Don’t get in the habit of waking up in the morning, rolling over in your bed, and with sleepy eyes trying to read a Bible with small print. Don’t stay in bed at all! Get up and wash your face, or have a shower, so that you are fully alert.
I love the story of a young student at Cambridge who wanted to be a burning light for God, but couldn’t get up in the morning. So he rigged up a clock in such a way that when the alarm rang it released from the ceiling a sponge filled with water which fell on his face! Another essential is a prayer list or prayer cycle, something to keep reminding you to stress a different request for each day. My wife and I use one that works this way:
Monday: “M” is for missionaries, pray for their needs and ministries. Tuesday: “T” is for thanksgiving – that’s when we give the Lord special thanks for wonderful answers to prayer. Wednesday: “W” is for witnessing, that God would give you a burden for evangelizing the spiritually lost. Thursday: “T” is for tasks, that God would give you a love for spiritually building up other Christians. Friday: “F” is for our families. Saturday: “S” is for the saints – and especially young Christians, that they would desire to make Jesus the Lord/Master of their lives. Sunday: “S” is for sanctification, that you would live a life separated from sin and worldliness and live a godly, Christ-like life.
Then you should have what I call a quiet time notebook. I believe that the thoughts of every quiet time should be written down, even if only in brief sentence form. God gives you something you’ll never find in a commentary or anywhere else – and the thoughts are worth keeping. Along with these tangible items of equipment, be sure to come to your quiet time with a spirit of expectancy. I believe that such expectancy has at least three contributing factors. There is first of all the physical factor. You cannot go to bed at all hours of the night and expect to get up fresh in the morning. Going to bed when you ought to takes discipline, and some of these social occasions that you enjoy may be sweet. But they are not as precious or vital as your quiet time.
There is a moral factor, too, in this matter of expectancy. “If I regard (cherish) iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psa. 66:18). When there is something in your life which is out of line with the will of God, don’t expect to have fellowship with Him. If you have something against this person or that, leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled first. Then there is a spiritual factor involved in this matter of expectancy. You find it stated in John 7:17: “If any man is willing to do … he shall know of the teaching”. Illumination and obedience are like parallel lines. As you obey, so He enlightens. When you cease to obey, He ceases to enlighten.
My experience is this: when I have tried to pray and read the Word and found it impossible to “get through,” so to speak, so that the Bible has become a dead book to me, on examination, I’ve discovered that there was an issue of obedience on which I had not followed through. And before proceeding with my quiet time, I have had to get right with God. We have considered the reasons for the quiet time. We have considered the requirements for the quiet time. Now let me share with you several simple rules that I feel help me in my daily time with God. The first rule is waiting. Samuel Chadwick says, “Hurry is the death of prayer.” You can get more from the Lord in five minutes spent unhurried than in thirty-five minutes with your eye on the clock. Hush yourself in His presence. Seek the power of concentration. Seek cleansing. Seek the illumination of the Spirit. Above all, seek to consciously come into His presence (i.e., realize that God is right there with you).
From waiting go on to reading. Read the Word of God. I believe with George Muller that you can never pray aright until He has spoken to you from His Word. When I say reading, I mean of course to go to the passage set aside for that particular day. God save you from the “lucky dip” methods (just flipping the Bible open anywhere). Such a practice is an insult to the sacredness of the Word of God. Read a selected passage at least three times. Read it carefully to discover what is there generally. The next time, peruse it for what is there specifically. Then study it for what is there personally. Move from reading to meditation. Look at the passage thoughtfully. Say: “Lord, as I look at this passage this morning, is there any command to obey? Is there any promise to claim? Is there any new thought to follow and pursue? Is there any sin to avoid? Is there any new thought about You? About the Lord Jesus? About the Holy Spirit? About the devil?” Seek to discover what God is saying to you from the passage you have read.
From meditation go on to what I call recording. Take that notebook that you keep just for your quiet time and jot down briefly what the Lord has said to you. Always make it personal. Put it down in such a personal way that it will be a message to your soul. Now pray. Praying has three aspects in your quiet time. First there is adjustment. Take the message the Lord has given you – the message recorded briefly in your quiet time notebook – and pray it back to Him. That’s one great secret of keeping your prayers alive and fresh. Pray it back until God’s will becomes your will in relation to the particular message He has spoken to you.
Then adore Him. Pour out your soul to Him. Thank Him. Think of His majesty and glory and mercy, and revel in the sunshine of His presence. Talk as a child to his father, as a servant to his master. And listen – as a lover to his beloved. Only then do you come to asking. Present your requests not only for yourself, but for others. Intercede for others. After prayer, there are two more very important steps which I believe are essential to the quiet time. One is sharing. Share God’s message to you with somebody – that day.
What you share you enjoy. What you share you keep. The manna God’s people gathered every day had to be shared and eaten. When hoarded it bred worms and stank. Most important of all, obey. Get up from your knees and say, “Heavenly Father, as I face this day, I ask You by the power of Your indwelling Holy Spirit to give me the grace to put into action what You have told me to do this morning.” Then go out to obey. God’s best for you is closely linked with this daily meeting with Him. The barometer of your Christian life can be observed by the attention you give to your quiet time every day.
You can’t tell me that you have surrendered to God, that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life, or that you know the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, unless this way to abide is your daily experience.
Stephen F. Olford