Having a daily time with God is the only way to ensure that you will grow spiritually. Unfortunately, many people are unsure how to have an exciting and life-changing time with God on a daily basis. The answer is found in four essential elements:
- Start with the proper attitudes.
- Select a specific time.
- Choose a special place.
- Follow a simple plan.
Start with the Proper Attitudes
In God’s eyes, why you do something is far more important than what you do. On one occasion God told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Do the right thing but with the right attitude:
Expectancy. Come before God with anticipation and eagerness. Expect to have a good time with Him and receive a blessing from your time together. That was what David expected: “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You.” (Psalm 63:1, Psalm 52:1)
Reverence. Don’t rush into God’s presence. Prepare your heart by being still before Him and letting quietness clear away the thoughts of the world. Listen to the prophet Habakkuk: “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20; see Psalm 89:7). Coming into the presence of the Lord is not like going to a football game.
Alertness. Get wide-eyed awake first. Remember that you are meeting with the Creator, the Maker of Heaven and earth, and the One who saved you from your sins. Be thoroughly rested and alert. The best preparation for a quality time with God in the morning begins the night before. Try to get to bed early so you will be in good shape to meet God in the morning.
Willingness to Obey. This attitude is crucial. You want to come to God with the willingness to do anything and everything that He wants you to do. Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own.” (John 7:17) So come to meet the Lord having already chosen to do His will no matter what.
Select a Specific Time
The specific time has to do with when you should have your quiet time and how long it should be. The general rule is this: The best time is when you are at your best! Give God the best part of your day—when you are the freshest and most alert. Don’t try to serve God with your leftovers (leftover time). Remember too that your best time may be different from someone else.
For many people early in the morning seems to be the best time. It was Jesus’ own practice to rise early to pray and meet with the Father. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
In the Bible, godly men and women rose early to meet with God:
- Abraham ~ Genesis 19:27
- Moses ~ Exodus 34:4
- David ~ Psalm 5:3
- Job ~ Job 1:5
- Hannah & Elkanah ~ 1 Samuel 1:19
- Jacob ~ Genesis 28:18
Also, in the morning, our minds are uncluttered from the day’s activities. Our thoughts are fresh, we’re rested, tensions have not yet come on us, and it’s usually the quietest time. One mother sets her alarm for 4 a.m., has her quiet time, goes back to bed, and then rises when everyone else in the household gets up. Her explanation is that with the kids around the house all day, early morning is the only time when it is quiet and she can be alone with God. It works for her; you need to select a time that will work for you.
If you are a night person, have your time with God in the evening. The point is, God deserves you full attention, not your leftovers. Whatever time you set, be consistent in it. Schedule it on your calendar; make an appointment with God as you would with anyone else. Then look forward to it and don’t stand Him up. A stood-up date is not a pleasant experience for us, and Jesus does not like to be stood up either. So make a date with Him and keep it at all costs.
How much time should you spend with the Lord? If you’ve never had a consistent quiet time before, you may want to start with 10 minutes and let it grow naturally. You should aim to eventually spend not less than 15 minutes a day with the Lord. Out of 168 hours we all have during a given week, 1 hour and 45 minutes seems terribly small when you consider that you were created to have fellowship with God.
- Don’t try for a two hour quiet time at first. You’ll only get discouraged. You must grow in this relationship as you do in any other. So begin with a consistent 7 to 10 minutes and let it grow; it’s better to be consistent with a short time than to meet for an hour every other week.
- Don’t watch the clock. Sometimes it will take longer than you have set aside, and sometimes less time. But don’t keep looking at your watch. If needed, set an alarm clock that will tell you when you need to be done.
- Emphasize quality not quantity. There is nothing super spiritual about having a two-hour quiet time. It’s what you do during your time-15 minutes to two hours or anything in between—that’s important. Aim for a quality relationship with God.
Choose a Special Place
The location, where we have our time with God, is also important. The Bible indicates that Abraham had a regular place where he met with God (Genesis 19:27) Jesus had a custom of praying at a place called the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him.” (Luke 22:39)
Your place ought to be a secluded place. This is a place where you can be alone, where it’s quiet, and where you will not be disturbed or interrupted. In today’s noisy Western World, this may take some ingenuity, but it is necessary. It ought to be a place…
- Where you can pray aloud without disturbing others.
- Where you have good lighting for reading (perhaps a desk).
- Where you are comfortable. (WARNING: Do not have your time with God in bed, that is too comfortable!)
Your place ought to be a special place. Wherever you decide to meet with the Lord, make it a special place for you and Him. As the days go by, that place will come to mean a lot to you because of the wonderful times you have there with Jesus.
Your place ought to be a sacred place. This is where you meet with the living God. Your don’t have to be in a church building. People have had their quiet times in their cars parked in a quiet place, in an empty closet at home, in their back yards, and even in a baseball dugout. Each of these places has become sacred to them.
Follow a Simple Plan
Someone has said, “If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it!” To have a meaningful quiet time, you will need a plan or some kind of general outline to follow. The main rule is this: Keep your plan simple.
I recommend the following three items for your planned times with God:
- A Bible—a contemporary translation that makes sense to you. Some examples: The New Living Bible, New International Version, The Message.
- A notebook—for writing down what the Lord shows you, and for making a prayer list.
- A worship tape or hymnbook—For those times when you want to sing during your quiet time. (see Colossians 3:16)
The following six-point plan is workable to a quiet time of any length.
- Wait on God (Relax) Be still for a minute, don’t come running into God’s presence and start talking immediately. Follow God’s admonition: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Be quiet for a short while, to put yourself in a reverent mood.
- Pray briefly (Request) This is not your prayer time, but a short opening prayer to ask God to cleanse your heart and guide you into the time together. Two good passages of Scripture to memorize are:
- “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes You sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24
- “Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.” (The Bible) Psalm 119:18
- Read a section of the Bible (Read) This is where your conversation with God begins. He speaks to you through His Word, and you speak with Him in prayer. Read your Bible…
- Slowly. Don’t be in a hurry; don’t try to read too large an amount; don’t race through it.
- Without stopping. Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence to go off on a tangent and do a doctrinal study. Just read that section for the pure joy of it, allowing God to speak to you. Remember that your goal here is not to gain information, but to feed on the Word and get to know Christ better.
- Aloud but quietly. Reading it aloud will improve your concentration if you have that problem. It will also help you understand what you are reading better because you will be both seeing and hearing what you are reading.
- Systematically. Read through one book at a time. Do not use the “random” method-a passage here, a chapter there, what you like here, an interesting portion there. You’ll understand the Bible better if you read it as it was written-a book or letter at a time.
Here’s a suggested way to read the New Testament. Obviously you can read it straight through if you’d like, but many people have found it most helpful to follow this simple plan:
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- Meditate and memorize (Reflect and Remember) In order to have the Bible speak to you meaningfully, you should think on what you are reading and memorize verses that particularly speak to you. Meditate is “seriously contemplating a thought over and over in your mind.”Out of your meditation you might select and memorize a verse that is particularly meaningful to you.
- Write down what God has shown you (Record) When God speaks to you through His Word, record what you have discovered. Writing it down will enable you to both remember what God revealed to you and to check up on your biblical discoveries. Recording what God has shown you is the way of applying what you see in the Scripture that pertains to your life.
- Have a time of prayer (Request) After God has spoken to you through His Word, speak to Him in prayer. This is your part of the conversation with the Lord.
What if you miss a day? Don’t worry about it if it happens occasionally. Don’t go on a guilt trip. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Don’t get legalistic. Don’t give up! If you miss a meal, it does not mean that you should give up eating because you’re inconsistent. You simply eat a little more at the next meal and go on from there. The same principle is true with your time with God.
Psychologists tell us that it usually takes us three weeks to get familiar with a new task or habit; it takes another three weeks before it becomes a habit. The reason many people are not successful in their times with God is because they have never made it past that six-week barrier.
How to develop a habit
- Make a strong resolution. You must always start with a strong, decided initiative. If you begin halfheartedly, you’ll never make it. Make a public declaration by telling others about your decision.
- Never allow an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. A habit is like a ball of twine. Every time you rip it, many strand are unwound. So never allow the “just this once” to occur. The act of yielding weakens the will and strengthens the lack of self-control.
- Seize every opportunity and inclination to practice you new habit. Whenever you get the slightest urge to practice you new habit, do it right then. Don’t wait, but use every opportunity to reinforce your habit. It does not hurt to overdo a new habit when you are first starting.
- Rely on the power of God. When all is said and done, you must realize that you are in a spiritual battle, and you can only succeed by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. So pray that God will strengthen you and depend on Him to help you develop this habit for His glory.
A Prayer of Commitment
If you have been convinced that this is what you need to do, would you pray the following?
“Lord I commit myself to spend a definite time with You every day, no matter what the cost. I am depending on Your strength to help me to be consistent.”