As we start a new year many of us have made a fresh commitment to read more of our Bible, pray more, and in general, have a more effective quiet time. While there is no right way or wrong way to do that, there are some things we might consider to make our time with God more spiritually profitable and enjoyable.
28 Ways to Improve Your Quiet Time
What Is a Quiet Time?
Sometimes as believers we speak a kind of Christianise. We throw around terms that we don’t fully explain. So let’s talk a little about what a quiet time is and is not.
First, what it is not.
It’s not a way to get right with God.
It’s not a way to earn His favor.
We can only be right with God by coming to Him by faith through Jesus Christ. If you’re not sure you’ve done this, you can read more about it here. In fact, this is so important, I would urge you to do that now before you finish reading this post if you’re not sure.
What a quiet time is.
It’s a time we set aside for focused prayer, worship, and time in God’s Word. It’s not a time of earning His grace and love but comes out of our love for Him. It’s a time to fellowship with the Him and get to know Him better.
Most of us pray throughout the day as things come to our minds or problems arise. We pray in traffic and even for parking spaces.
We praise Him in our cars and kitchens as we sing along to our favorite worship music.
We hear the Word taught in our churches and on podcasts. We have verses that pop up on our phones. We may memorize passages and think about them during the day.
But if that’s all our spiritual lives entail, we’re depriving ourselves of much of the comfort, encouragement, and fellowship God has for us. Frankly, without personal time with God, we’ll be spiritually anemic.
Living in a fallen world we both fail God ourselves and suffer from the sinful behavior of others. When that happens we need the comfort only the Holy Spirit can provide. We need to be reminded of His mercy and other gospel truths (Jn. 14.26-27).
We, also, need strength to resist temptation (Matt. 6.13), to respond rightly to others (Matt. 22.37-40; Rom. 12.9-21), and to walk in obedience (Jn. 14.15). We need wisdom for the multitude of decisions we make every day (Jas. 1.5-8). Those things require purposeful prayer (Eph. 6.18; 1 Thess. 5.17) and a steady intake of His Word (Col 3.16; Josh. 1.8).
Spending time with God grows our faith and trust in Him.
Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life talks about three ways that God grows us spiritually. The first is through people. God uses our friends and family, our co-workers, our pastors and teachers, parents and children, and even our enemies to grow us (Prov. 27.17).
The second is through circumstances: financial problems, relational problems, world events, natural phenomenon like the weather, sickness, and all kinds of tests and trials (Rom. 8.28-29).
The third is through the spiritual disciplines like Bible intake, prayer, fasting, service, worship, journaling and others. Whitney uses the stories of the blind beggar Bartimaeus (Lk. 18.35-42) and the tax collector Zacchaeus (Lk. 19.1-10) to explain the importance of spiritual disciplines.
When he heard that Jesus was approaching, Bartimaeus, over the objections of others in the crowd, cried out repeatedly for Jesus to have mercy on him. And Zacchaeus, a wealthy but short tax collector, climbed up into a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Him. Both of them, unashamedly, placed themselves in the His path. And in both cases, Jesus stopped and responded to their desire for an encounter with Him.
When we practice the spiritual disciplines, we do much the same thing. We place ourselves in Jesus’ path and, just as He did with Bartimaeus and Zachaeus, He responds to us and communes with us.
So, how can we do that more effectively? While there is no right way or wrong way to have a quiet time, there are some things we might consider to make our time with God more spiritually profitable and enjoyable. This isn’t intended to be a checklist. Certainly prayer, Bible reading, and worship are all essential, but how we do those things will vary from person to person and even from season to season in our lives.
Prepare your heart.
Jehoshaphat was a relatively good king. He made his share of mistakes for which God rebuked him, but God said this about him:
Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God (2 Chron. 19.3).
We prepare our hearts by confessing any known sin (1 Jn. 1.9) and by asking God to show us those things we don’t see.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139.23-24).
We might also pray passages like:
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law (Ps. 119.18).
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way (Ps. 119.33-37).
God is always looking at the heart so, even though, our best attempts to worship and pray will fall short, God honors those whose hearts at set on Him.
Be physically alert.
That may mean getting your coffee before you begin or going to bed a little earlier.
Technology can be a blessing or a curse. Too often instead of reaching for our Bibles, we reach for our smartphones to check email, text messages, or Instagram. Leave your phone in the other room or turn it face down when you do your quiet time.
And it’s not just technology. We have errands to run, bills to pay, and a host of other things on our mental to-do lists. Sometimes it’s hard to turn it all off. Keep a notepad handy. Write down those things that come to mind so you can deal with them later instead of trying to mentally juggle them now.
Make an appointment with God.
When we desire a relationship with someone, we purpose to spend time with them. This doesn’t just happen. We have to make it a priority and not let other things (including the snooze button) take precedence.
If you’re not a morning person by nature, setting aside a regular time will eventually make getting up easier as your body adjusts to a regular schedule.
Psalm 5:3 says, “… in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up.”
Note that while I could make a case that morning is often the best time, it’s not possible or right for everyone.
Have a regular place.
Jesus sought out places where He could be alone with His Father (Matt. 6.6). We should, too. Any quiet place where we can focus on the Lord is good.
Depending on the weather and the time of the year, I have my quiet time in my little home office or outside on the patio.
Because most of us are creatures of habit having a regular place can help us get our minds off the things of this world and unto heavenly things more quickly.
Get up earlier.
I understand this can take effort. But even 15-30 minutes of extra time alone with the Lord in the morning can set a whole different tone for your day.
Set your coffee up the night before. Have your Bible, journal, and other things together in one place.
Be quiet and still.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Focus your mind on Him. Be reverent. Expect Him to speak to you through His Word.
Ask good questions.
Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matt. 22.37-40). We should examine ourselves in light of those commands and others.
See my recent post, Love, Sex & Self-Examination. (A free printable is available at the bottom of that post.)
Confess any areas of sin to God and make them right with others as soon as possible.
Some other questions to ask:
As I look back on the past 24-hours, what were the most significant events?
Did I do any reading or hear any teaching? What were my reactions to it? What do I need to remember? How do I need to change and grow?
How did I feel during the day? What were the emotional high points or low points? Why did I feel as I did? Is God trying to tell me anything through those feelings?
Did I find myself worrying about anything today? How can I turn that worry into a prayer?
What were the chief joys of the day?
What did I accomplish today?
Did I fail at anything? What can I learn from this?
Did I have any insights into myself or another person that I want to remember?
What nuggets of truth did I glean?
Is there something I need to change or do? If so, what is my plan to do so?
Have a tent.
Gather things like a readable translation of the Bible, a journal (we’ll talk more about that in a minute), a notepad, pens, highlighters, and perhaps a prayer, devotional, or Bible study book.
You might want to corral it all in a tote or basket. The added advantage of a tote is it’s portable. You can throw it in your car and redeem time spent waiting for kids or appointments.
Read your Bible.
All of God’s Word is valuable (2 Tim. 3.16-17), yet too often our knowledge of the Bible is limited to a number of key passages.
I highly recommend reading the Bible in a systematic way. Whether you read through it in a year, two years, or longer, have a plan. It would take a little over 70 hours to read the entire Bible out loud at a pulpit rate. Stop for a minute and think about that statistic. That breaks down to twelve minutes a day if spread over a year.
There are many plans available including mine which is a one-year plan. You will read some in the Old Testament; some in the New, a portion of a Psalm and a verse or two in Proverbs each day. Doing so will keep you from getting bogged down in some of the more difficult to understand books.
If you follow along with me here at Soul Survival, I’ll add some practical commentary to help you get more out of your reading. Simply sign up here. If you sign up by January 31st you’ll have a chance to win a copy of Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney.
Kelli LaFram uses a two-year plan called Quietly Through. You could also do something as simple as reading one book at a time and checking them off in the table of contents as you do.
Have a plan for praying.
You might try praying through the Bible.
Or you may want to pray for different things each day of the week (i.e. Sunday, church and ministry; Monday, family; Tuesday, personal; etc.).
Try using the acronym ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication.
Take time to express your adoration for God and His character. Confess your sins. Thank Him for His many blessings. Then begin to share your requests.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He gave them (and us) the “Our Father” or “Lord’s Prayer.” It’s really an outline for prayer. You can read more about praying the Lord’s Prayer here.
Keep a prayer list.
When someone asks me to pray, I’ve learned to do it on the spot when I can, but I also try to write myself a note that I can transfer to my prayer list as soon as possible.
Keeping a prayer list can help us pray in a more organized and thorough way.
Keep a journal.
You can jot down verses that speak to your heart. Keep a record of prayer requests and answers. Write out quotes or thoughts from your Bible or other reading. You might write down and answer the questions above or write out your prayers. It doesn’t have to be flowery. You’re not writing for publication.
Also, there are times in all of our lives (when our children are small, we’re traveling with others, etc.) when it’s very difficult to get away and find a quiet place. A journal can be very helpful. I have prayed in my journal on airplanes and sitting on a park bench watching my grandchildren. You can pray at your desk on your lunch hour, in a tent on a military installation, and many other places.
You can use a fancy blank book or a simple notebook. You can write a little or a lot, with a pen or with a computer. Do what works for you.
Read more on journaling in these two posts: Journal Prompts for your Prayer or Scripture Journaling and Journaling & Self-Examination.
Read a book.
While reading about prayer shouldn’t replace praying and books about the Bible shouldn’t replace reading it for yourself, they can help motivate you to pray more, help you learn to study the Bible for yourself, and draw you closer to God.
One of my favorites is the one I quoted above, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. It covers all the spiritual disciplines and can help you understand their importance. I have read it multiple times and will almost surely read it again.
I’m currently reading Susan Heck’s book, With the Master on Our Knees. Each chapter covers a different prayer from the Bible. The chapter on Uzziah’s prayer alone is worth the price of the book.
John Piper writes great devotional books and there are many good ones.
I will list a few recommendations at the bottom of this post.
Know the principles of good Bible study and interpretation.
You might want to check out my post, 10 Principles for Effective Bible Study.
Use study Bibles and commentaries.
While someone else’s interpretation of God’s Word shouldn’t be our sole source of spiritual sustenance, there are men and women who have devoted their lives to the study of the Scripture. We can benefit greatly from their work.
One of my go-to resources is the MacArthur Study Bible. It’s available in several translations and is packed with a lifetime of study.
Another of my favorite tools is Matthew Henry’s Commentary. It’s available free at StudyLight.org. StudyLight provides a number of commentaries and other resources on their site, as well. Another good one is BlueLetterBible. It’s full of useful tools.
Keep photos of your family in your journal to help you focus on each one as your pray.
A map or globe can help you pray for missionaries or persecuted Christians around the world.
Listen to worship music.
Some find music distracting and others find it very helpful. See what works for you.
It can be vocal or instrumental. Experiment with styles and songs you may not hear often. Many of the old hymns are rich with theology. Kristy at A Narrow-Minded Woman features one each week and you can check out many others on youtube.
Use sticky notes.
Since I read at four places in my Bible each day (Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, New Testament), I have colorful sticky arrows marking each place.
You can also jot down prayer requests and anything else God brings to mind.
Psalm 119.11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
The only way to do that is to memorize it.
Memorizing Scripture extends your quiet time into the rest of your day by allowing you to think more deeply about a verse or passage anywhere and anytime. Carry a 3×5 card with you and pull it out during those wasted moments of time.
If you think you can’t memorize Scripture, remember God would never command us to do something He wouldn’t also enable us to do.
I keep my journal on my computer. I also store my prayer list, verses I’m memorizing and others I want to pray there.
Bible apps can make God’s Word readily accessible no matter where you are. Many have Bible reading, study and devotional plans available.
Meditate on Scripture.
Think deeply about what you read in your Bible. Let it sink down into your heart. Think about each phrase. Look up words, if necessary. Ask questions:
Is there a command to obey?
Is there a promise to believe?
Is there a sin to avoid or repent of?
Is there a principle to remember?
It’s all too easy to mentally check out even when praying or reading our Bibles. I’ve found myself thinking about my to-do list, the load of laundry I need to start, or a conversation I had with someone.
If that happens to you, try reading your Bible out loud. You can highlight key verses or copy them in your journal.
If you have trouble staying awake, walk around while you pray, sing with worship music, or listen to an audio Bible.
Someone told me she sat on the edge of her bathtub when she prayed so she would not fall asleep.
Pray with someone.
We all need to have time to think, read, and pray alone with God. But you might also consider finding a prayer partner to pray with on a weekly or daily basis. This can add accountability and encouragement.
Contemplate the gospel.
In the Biblical counseling world, a statement you’ll sometimes hear is, “You have to preach the gospel to yourself every day.”
What does that mean? Isn’t the gospel for unbelievers, something you believe once and then move on to other things?
I don’t know about you, but even though I know that I wasn’t saved by any goodness in me or any amount of good deeds (Rom. 3.10) I tend to think I have to keep myself saved by my own self-effort. I can easily come under condemnation and feel like giving up and thinking I’ll never get things right in my life.
Some years ago I read Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life. In it, she asks a number of questions to help you evaluate whether you need a deeper understanding of the gospel and God’s love for His children. One questions stuck with me:
At the end of the day is there a rest in your soul because of him, or is there guilt and a determination that tomorrow you’re going to “do better”?
It’s easy for me to forget that I’m a partaker of His righteousness and that Christianity is not about “doing,” but about what He did!
Elyse goes on to say:
It’s essential for us to think about God’s love today because it is only his love that can grant us the joy that will strengthen our hearts, the courage that will embolden us in our fight against sin, and the assurance that will enable us to open up our lives to him so that he might deal powerfully with our unbelief and idolatry.
Maybe like me, you need to contemplate the gospel in a deeper way.
Obey what God shows you in your time with Him. Spiritual growth happens not so much as a result of an increase in information as an increase in our willingness to obey and act on what we believe.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someoneto teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5.12-14).
Finally … Believe.
Believe we can come boldly to His throne of grace (Heb. 4.14-16).
Believe God hears and answers prayer (1 Jn. 5.14-15).
Do you have other things that enhance your time with God? Which of these have you tried and found helpful? Are there a few on this list that you want to incorporate into your quiet time?
I’m praying that your quiet time will be a special time of spiritual growth and fellowship with the Lord. And … I hope you’ll join me on this journey through the Bible in 2018.
Coming Up in Our Soul Survival, Bible in a Year posts:
We will start in Genesis, one of my favorite books of the Bible. It’s full of real stories of real people: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph, just to name a few. There is so much to learn here.
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Rom. 15.4).
In the New Testament we’ll be looking at how Jesus fought the devil with the sword of the Spirit. Then we’ll work our way through the Sermon on the Mount, and much more.
Be sure to sign up here so you won’t miss any of these upcoming daily posts. If you sign up now you will have a chance to win one of the best books on prayer that I’ve read in a long time: Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney (sign up by January 31). You can read more about it below.
Congratulations to Nicole. She was the winner of The MacArthur Daily Bible and monogrammed journal in our last drawing!
This post may contain affiliate links, but I only recommend books and resources that I believe are theologically sound and beneficial to the reader. Thank you for supporting this blog and ministry by supporting my links! There is no additional cost to you when you do.
Today’s Featured Resources:
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
“This little book is explosive and powerful.”
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things about the same old things?
Offering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all looking for, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power to transform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yet profound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune with your heavenly Father in prayer each and every day.
The MacArthur Daily Bible takes a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs for each day of the year, with daily comments that guide and inform you as you read through the Bible in a year. John MacArthur’s insight maximizes the benefit of each day’s reading. If a commitment to daily Bible reading never worked for you before, this is the answer. With John at your side, there’ll be no such thing as a tough portion of Scripture.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will guide you through a carefully selected array of disciplines. By illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them, this book will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to become more like Christ and grow in character and maturity.
Expository Bible Study for women who want a deeper and more meaningful life of prayer. Based on the prayers of Old and New Testament saints. Study questions included.
Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick.
Elyse asks one simple question: “In your pursuit of godliness, have you left Jesus behind?” We need to be rescued from our “identity amnesia” and pointed to our true identity as God’s beloved children—adopted by the Father, united with the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper
Satisfaction…Happiness…Joy. According to John Piper, the pursuit of pleasure in God is not only permissible, it’s essential.
Piper reveals that there really is no need to choose between duty and delight in the Christian life. In fact, for the follower of Jesus, delight is the duty as Christ is most magnified in His people when they are most satisfied in Him.
Constantly drawing on Scripture to build his case, Piper shows why pursuing maximum joy is essential to glorifying God. He discusses the implications of this for conversion, worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering.
Piper beckons us to approach God with the hedonist’s abandon. Finally, we are freed to enjoy Jesus—not only as our Lord and Savior, but also as our all-surpassing, soul-satisfying Treasure.
Desiring God may turn your Christian world upside down. And that will be a good thing, for the glory of God, and for your deepest joy.
It’s filled with powerful prayers that can express the doubts, fears, struggles, and concerns of us all.