“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
Mornings have always been a challenge for me. I am not a morning person. At least, at the beginning of my ministry. I would get out of bed at the last minute to shower, no breakfast, and out the door to my first appointment. I didn’t ‘wake up’ until about mid-morning and eat a candy bar and Pepsi for my late breakfast. No time to prepare myself for the day. No time to spend time with God. Barely enough time to get everything done in the day that needed to be completed. I felt important because I felt busy.
But that all came crashing down when my son was shot in 2006 while serving in the Marines in Iraq. We received the call and it turned our world upside down. He nearly died from the blood loss. However, he recovered and had a month of rehabilitation at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I went out and spent the whole month with him. It’s a month that has defined who I am as a father and a Christian.
I am very familiar with hospitals. As a pastor, I spend quite a bit of time visiting people in the hospital. But I wasn’t visiting for a few minutes nor was I a patient. I had all day for many, many days looking for something to do. So I picked up a Bible and started reading it.
I’ve read the Bible through a couple of times in my life. But this time I read the whole Bible in less than a month. I even started reading it the second time before the time to go home. I left that Bible but when I got home I picked up where I left off with my preaching Bible. Even with my busy schedule I discovered that I had to carve out time to read my Bible. I had created a thirst for God’s Word that nothing else in my schedule could quench.
That is when I started getting up early to read my Bible. I also discovered that early morning is the best time of the day. It is quiet. The craziness of my schedule and the crazies that I sometimes interact with aren’t filling my mind with more crazy. It is just me and God. It is beautiful. It is productive.
When I get up in the morning and make time for God, I am guaranteeing that my most important priority is getting done. Nothing else I do all day will compare in value with my time with God. So even if I get nothing else accomplished, I got my Number One Priority completed.
WHAT IS A QUIET TIME?
Christians down through the centuries have set aside a small portion of each day to shut out the world and focus on building their relationship with God. This time has been called many things: Quiet Time, Daily Devotions, The Morning Watch, Time Alone With god. I have always favored the term “Quiet Time.” Your Quiet Time when you get alone with God for the purpose of fellowship and worship. Those who have made their Quiet Time a priority in their lives point to it as one of the main keys to depth in their walk with God.
“The amount of time we spend with Jesus, meditating on His Word and His majesty, seeking His face, establishes our fruitfulness in the kingdom.” Charles Stanley
“Ten minutes spent in the presence of Christ every day, aye, two minutes, will make the whole day different.” Henry Drummond
“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” R. A. Torrey
“Time spent alone with God is not wasted. It changes us; it changes our surroundings; and every Christian who would live the life that counts, and who would have power for service must take time to pray.” M. E. Andross
“If we don’t maintain a quiet time each day, it’s not really because we are too busy; it’s because we do not feel it is important enough.” George Sweeting
“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” Corrie ten Boom
Notice how Jesus did had His quiet time. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
Following a busy day and before another day began He got up early to spend quiet time with His Heavenly Father. Late hours did not keep Jesus from His appointed meeting with His Father early in the morning. He knew that if He was to meet men he must first meet God.
As brief as it is, this picture of Jesus at quiet time is very instructive. He found a solitary place and prayed. Every person has some measure of power. We control our schedule and decide our priorities. No matter how busy you are, you make time for your priorities. The fundamental issue is not how we can cram more into our busy lives, but how we use what time we have. In this sense we might even speak of our Quiet Time as a barometer of faith. If we do not have a Quiet Time, it is quite possible that we are operating on our own agenda and have refused our proper role as ministers.
All Christians need time alone with God. It is vital. But ministers, especially, need to spend time with God. We are examples of what a Christian should do. We are leaders and if we don’t get it right, we will lead a whole congregation down the wrong path. Personally, we need fellowship with God. We were created to have fellowship with God Jesus died so that we could have fellowship. To miss our Quiet Time is to miss our most important appointment of the day.
“If you want to find out what a man is really like, find out what he is like alone with God”
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN HAVING A QUIET TIME?
I am glad God doesn’t make a list of expectations for our Quiet Time. It may vary from person to person. However, there are some simple principles that would help you have a regular, consistent Quiet Time.
1 – Set aside a particular time to spend alone with God
It must be predetermined. If you don’t set aside a time you won’t have the time. Jesus predetermined the time. Jesus did so before the day began. It must be planned. How much time will you spend? Notice that Jesus planed to spend a good amount of time. He went “a great while before day.” It needs to be unhurried.
2 – Set aside a particular place to get alone with God.
It needs to be somewhere that you can be quiet and uninterrupted. Notice Jesus went to a “solitary place”. This is important if you are to unclutter your mind so you can meet with God. The psalmist quotes our Heavenly Father when He said “be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).
3 – Take God’s Word with you to your time alone with God.
God’s Word (the Bible) is the primary tool that God uses to speak to us. Lately I am reading less, not more. It’s not a contest anymore to see how much I can read my Bible. I am reading one or two chapters, finding a verse that hits my heart, and making some observations and personal application. The goal is not the just to read the Bible (though that is important) but to let the Bible read you. Slow down and listen.
4 – Spend time in prayer, talking heart to heart with God.
Pray with purpose and direction. Just having a conversation with God is wonderful. However, it is also valuable to have some structure. Many Christians use acronyms to guide them: For example, A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) or P.R.A.Y. (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield). I have often simply used the Lord’s Prayer as my guide. Currently, I am using the example of twelve points of prayer from Dick Eastman’s book, The Hour That Changes the World.
Regardless of what method you use to aid in your prayer, make sure there is a time when you sit quietly and listen to the voice of God. We must be still so we can hear his voice. He will comfort you during this time. He will direct you to scripture during this time. He will direct your spirit during this time.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A DAILY QUIET TIME?
1 – Peace
Through refocusing your attention on God, rather than your problems, you will discover the promised peace of God. Life has a way of making our problems look bigger and our God look smaller. Your Quiet Time will readjust your perspective. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
2 – Joy
Because the source of your strength becomes Christ rather than your circumstances, you will maintain joy in spite of your circumstances. The ministry always has moments that cause pain and hurt. Don’t let the ministry rob you of the joy of the presence of Jesus. “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11).
3 – Direction
Spending time with God enables Him to give you direction when you need it. Even if you do not receive specific direction, God will bless the path you take as you acknowledge him in your decision. “In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6). Notice that God does not necessarily direct our steps, but He will direct whatever path we take.
4 – Power/Strength
The ministry can be exhausting. It is an impossible task in simply our human strength. We need supernatural power and that only comes by waiting on God. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
5 – Success
Joshua received a great promise from God that can apply to our ministry. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8). Joshua was a great success as a military leader. We can be a great success in our ministry by daily meditating on God’s Word. Success is not building and budgets but hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
6 – Others will notice the difference in our lives
Your Quiet Time is the foundation of a good ministry. If it is done right, no one will know the quantity and quality of your time with God. It is easy to cut corners in our Quiet Time. No one will know. But God will know. In regards to our private worship, Jesus promised “”thy Father which teeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). People may not know how or why, but they will know we have been with Jesus. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
There are many problems that we face when we try to maintain a Quiet Time. It may be discipline (consistent daily), boredom (dry), concentration, and even discouragement. The main thing to remember is to always pray and ask the Lord to help you. Then commit yourself to just do it. If you miss then do it the next day. Don’t be committed to the schedule but the purpose.
It is said that Andrew Bonar, a great man of prayer, had three rules: (1) Not to speak to any man before speaking to Jesus; (2) Not to do anything with his hands until he had been on his knees; (3) Not to read the papers until he had read his Bible.
A missionary in Africa mentions a phenomenon that occurred as Christianity began to spread among some natives. In the early part of the day, as the men went to work, they would wander through the tall grass and find a quiet place to spend time with God. Soon the worn down grass became a dirt path that marked each one’s journey to have a Quiet Time. Soon, one’s prayer life was made public. If someone began to neglect his or her devotional life, it would soon be noticed by others. Believers would then gently and lovingly remind those in neglect, ‘The grass grows on your path.”
If you are too busy to spend time with God, you are busier than He intended you to be.