Discipleship: Quiet Time

While Bible study’s purpose is to learn more about God, quiet time is more focused on spending time alone with God, developing your relationship with Him, letting Him speak to you, and strengthening you for the day.

Quiet time is also sometimes called ‘devotions’ or ‘meditation’. Don’t confuse this with the New Age concept of meditation. It is not emptying your mind, but filling it, using it. The word ‘meditation’ means in-depth thinking or contemplating.

It often astonishes me that I did not see the importance of meditation upon Scripture earlier in my Christian life. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so it is with the inner man. What is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God – not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.

– The Autobiography of George Muller

Quiet time is communion with God. It includes both Bible reading and study, and prayer. You will find that as you spend time in this way, not only do you talk to God, He talks to you.

When and where should I spend time with God?

Setting a specific time and place every day to spend time alone with God is probably the most important step towards strengthening your relationship with Him. Consider this as “holy” time – set aside (“devoted”) for God. As with all spiritual disciplines, develop this habit now and it will help you when tough times come later.

I rise before the dawning of the morning, And cry for help; I hope in Your word.

– Psalms 119:147

The best time is first thing in the morning. Your mind is clearer, having not yet been distracted with the everyday things of life. Consider it your spiritual breakfast. Plus it honors God to give the first part of the day to Him, so He doesn’t get the leftovers of your time.

The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day.

– Henry Ward Beecher

Said George Washington Carver, “There is no need for anyone to be without direction in the midst of life. Are we not plainly told, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy path’?” It was Dr. Carver’s custom to arise every day at four A.M., and seek God’s guidance for his life. In speaking of the blessings of those early morning hours, he said, “At no other time have I so sharp an understanding of what God means to do with me as in those hours when other folks are still asleep. Then I hear God best and learn His plan!”

– W.B.Knight

I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, it is eleven or twelve o’clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ arose before day and went into a solitary place. David says: ‘Early will I seek thee’, ‘Thou shalt early hear my voice.’ Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness, and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then when in secret prayer the soul is often out of tune. I feel it is far better to begin with God-to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another.

– Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.

– J. Hudson Taylor

David prayed, asking God for help early in the morning, and he “hoped” in God’s word, even before the sun rose. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, one of the things He told them was to ask for “our daily bread” – which is something done at the beginning of the day, not the end (Matthew 6:11). Ask God for daily grace and read your Bible in the morning, so you are better equipped for the day.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

– Joshua 1:8

Joshua was instructed to meditate on God’s word “day and night”, and you should also. That means throughout the day and when you are awake at night. Just as you can’t chew unless you put something in your mouth, you can’t think about what you’ve read unless you first spend time reading. When you spend time in God’s word in the morning, then you can meditate on what you’ve read and learned throughout the day. There are plenty of times that you can think about what you’ve read. Sure, you can’t read your Bible all the time (while you’re driving for example), but you can ‘ruminate’ on what you’ve read earlier while commuting to work or on long drives on the highway, or at night in bed when you can’t sleep:

My eyes are awake through the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.

– Psalm 119:148

Not only is time important, so is where you spend time with God is also important:

And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; …

– Genesis 24:63

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

– Luke 6:12

“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

– Matthew 6:6

Have a set location, a place where you won’t be disturbed. This can be a literal closet, another room in your house, or someplace outside. You need a place where you can be alone with God, where He can speak to you without other people or other things distracting you.

In a letter to his friends, hymn writer Wendell P. Loveless related this story: One evening a speaker who was visiting the United States wanted to make a telephone call. He entered a phone booth, but found it to be different from those in his own country. It was beginning to get dark, so he had difficulty finding the number in the directory. He noticed that there was a light in the ceiling, but he didn’t know how to turn it on. As he tried again to find the number in the fading twilight, a passerby noted his plight and said, “Sir, if you want to turn the light on, you have to shut the door.” To the visitor’s amazement and satisfaction, when he closed the door, the booth was filled with light. He soon located the number and completed the call.

In a similar way, when we draw aside in a quiet place to pray, we must block out our busy world and open our hearts to the Father. Our darkened world of disappointments and trials will then be illuminated. We will enter into communion with God, we will sense His presence, and we will be assured of His provision for us. Our Lord often went to be alone with the Heavenly Father. Sometimes it was after a busy day of preaching and healing, as in today’s Scripture reading. At other times, it was before making a major decision (Luke 6:12).

– Our Daily Bread.

There is absolutely no substitute for this secret communion with God. The public Church services, or even the family altar, cannot take the place of the ‘closet’ prayer. We must deliberately seek to meet with God absolutely alone, and to secure such aloneness with God we are bidden to ‘enter into thy closet.’ God absolutely insists on this ‘closet’-communion with Himself. One reason, no doubt, that He demands it, is to test our sincerity. There is no test for the soul like solitude. Do you shrink from solitude? Perhaps the cause for your neglect of the ‘closet’ is a guilty conscience? You are afraid to enter into the solitude. You know that however cheerful you appear to be you are not really happy. You surround yourself with company lest, being alone, truth should invade your delusion…

– Gordon Cove

“When you pray,” says Jesus, “go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly.” This means two things. 1) Shut the world out; withdraw from all the thoughts and concerns of the day. 2) Shut yourself in alone with God to pray in secret. Let this be your chief object in prayer, to realize the presence of your heavenly Father. Let your goal be: “Alone with God.”

– The Best of Andrew Murray on Prayer

When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. … (there follows the feeding of the 5000, then…) … Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

– Matthew 14:13-14,22-23

Sometimes you will get interrupted. Jesus wanted to spend time alone with God, but the needs of the multitude had to be met. Don’t refuse to be interrupted if it is important – deal with the interruption, but remember afterwards to spend time with God.

Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”

– Today in the Word, June 29, 1992.

Why should I spend time with God?

However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

– Luke 5:15-16

Your time spent with God gives you spiritual strength. Even Jesus needed strength to deal with those who came to Him for help, so He often spent time alone with God. This is another reason to do so when the day begins, so you will be equipped for whatever happens.

May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD.

– Psalm 104:34

Spending time with God pleases Him. Quality Time is one of God’s “love languages”. You could be doing something else, even something you admittedly like to do more, but instead you spend time with God. And as you do, this time will come to mean more and more to you. Your relationship with God will become more important (Psalm 42:1-2, 143:6)

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.

– Psalms 63:1

Closet communion needs time for the revelation of God’s presence. It is vain to say, ‘I have too much work to do to find time.’ You must find time or forfeit blessing. God knows how to save for you the time you sacredly keep for communion with Him.

– A. T. Pierson

Am I robbing God of time? How easy to do, and how impossible to repay! We have lost the sacred art of spending time with God, and nothing else can ever take its place. No repentance however deep, no restitution however costly, no sorrow however complete, can do away with the necessity for a daily time of sacred quiet, alone with God.

– Gordon M. Guinness

When our quiet times have become hurried, how can we expect to give God the adoration that is His due? How can we receive the guidance that God is waiting to give? How can our hearts catch the glow of divine fire? How can we have deep fellowship with those purposes that are really nearest to the heart of God?

– Gordon M. Guinness

What am I to meditate on?

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

– 1 Timothy 4:15-16

Timothy was instructed to “meditate on these things”, which in the previous verses had to do with what he was to teach and how he was to live. It is essential that the one who teaches be intimately familiar with and practice what he teaches. If you’re teaching a class or leading a Bible study, make sure you spend time in the Word.

Even if you don’t teach, there are certain things you should mediate on:

I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.

– Psalms 119:15

Meditate on God’s word, for in it is revealed how God works. Think about who God is – His nature and character. Contemplate His holiness, justice, mercy and goodness (Example: Exodus 34:6-7).

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.

– Psalms 139:17-18 (MKJV)

Meditate on how God works and thinks. Become more familiar with Him and know what pleases and displeases Him. Meditate on it so that your way of thinking can conform to His way. (This is what being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” means in Romans 12:2.)

I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.

– Psalms 77:11-12 (MKJV)

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands.

– Psalms 143:5 (Green)

Recall to mind what God has done in the past. Remember how God has worked, not only in the lives of others, but in your life. As you remember how He has worked, your faith in Him and love for Him will grow.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.

– Philippians 4:8

Meditate on what edifies you (i.e. what builds up your relationship with God). I’m a believer in the computer-adage “garbage in, garbage out”. Feed your mind with what is beneficial. Be an expert in what is good, not what is evil (Romans 16:19).

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

– James 1:22-25 (RKJNT)

Whatever you learn, put into practice. When God speaks to you, do what He says. Obedience leads to even greater knowledge of God.

What are the benefits of time devoted to God?

There are also benefits other than those mentioned above:

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. …

– Psalm 1

If you are grounded in and delight in God’s word, then even when outside circumstances are contrary, you will not only survive but flourish and even bear spiritual fruit.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

– Joshua 1:8

This does not necessarily mean material wealth, but success in what you do.

I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.

– Psalm 119:99 (AB)

You will know God better than many scholars and Bible teachers. They may know about Him, but you will know Him.

Helps on Bible readings:

In addition to prayer and Bible study, you can also include the following in your time alone with God:

READ THROUGH THE BIBLE: Include reading through the Bible regularly, a few chapters or pages a day. This will give you an overview of the entire Bible so you can see how it all fits together.

INCLUDED PREWRITTEN DEVOTIONALS: Include some “canned” devotions with your Bible reading/study, ones that focus on building your relationship with God. These can help to avoid missing topics. Don’t rely solely on them but use them in additional to your regular Bible reading. Like commentaries, they reflect the doctrinal biases of the writers. Some examples:

Our Daily Bread:

Published by Radio Bible Class. Our church has a subscription, but if there are none left, you can read them online at http://www.rbc.org/. RBC will also mail them for free to your home if you ask.

My Utmost For His Highest:

By Oswald Chambers. Sometimes he’s hard to understand so there are easier-to-understand versions.

Others include “The Best of Andrew Murray”, “Still Higher For His Highest”, “None But The Hungry Heart”, and “Table In The Wilderness”.

Many who do come into the secret place, and who are God’s children, enter it and leave it just as they entered, without ever so much as realizing the presence of God. And there are some believers who, even when they do obtain a blessing, and get a little quickening of soul, leave the secret place without seeking more. They go to their chamber, and there get into the secret place, but then, as soon as they have got near to Him, they think they have been peculiarly blessed, and leave their chamber, and go back into the world… Oh, how is it that the Lord’s own people have so little perseverance? How is it that when they do enter into their place of prayer to be alone, they are so easily persuaded to be turned away empty; instead of wrestling with God to pour out His Spirit, they retire from the secret place without the answer, and submit to it as being God’s will.

– William C. Burns

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