How To Have A Meaningful Time With God
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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).
It is quite possible to do the right thing but with the wrong attitude. This was Amaziah’s problem, for “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:2).
When you come to meet with God in your quiet time, you should have these proper attitudes:
1. Expectancy: Come before God with anticipation and eagerness. Expect to have a good time of fellowship 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; see Psalm 52:1).
2. Reverence: Don’t rush into God’s presence, but prepare your heart by being still before Him and letting the 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 or some other form of entertainment.
3. Alertness: Get wide-awake first. Remember that you are meeting with the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Redeemer of men. Be thoroughly rested and alert. The best preparation for a quiet time in the morning begins the night before. Get to bed early so you will be in good shape to meet God in the morning, for He deserves your full attention.
4. Willingness to obey: This attitude is crucial. You don’t come to your quiet time to choose what you will do or not do, but with the purpose of doing anything and everything that God 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 than someone else’s.
In the Bible many godly men and women rose early to meet with God. Some of these were . . .
• Abraham - Genesis 19:27
• Moses - Exodus 34:4
• Job - Job 1:5
• Jacob - Genesis 28:18
• David - Psalms 5:3; 57:7,8
• (See also Psalms 90:14; 119:147; 143:8; Isaiah 26:9;
Throughout church history, many Christians who were used most by God met with Him early in the morning. Hudson Taylor said, “You don’t tune up the instruments after the concert is over. That’s stupid. It’s logical to tune them up before you start.”
The great revival among British college students in the late 19th century began with these historic words: “Remember the Morning Watch!” So we need to tune ourselves up at the start of each day as we remember the Morning Watch.
If Jesus really has first place in our lives, we ought to give Him the first part of our day. We are to seek His kingdom first (see Matthew 6:33). Doctors tell us that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. It often determines our energy levels, alertness, and even moods for the day. Likewise, we need a “spiritual breakfast” to start our day off right.
Finally, 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 clock 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 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.
You might even consider having two quiet times (morning and night). Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to have code letters for his night quiet time – H.W.L.W. Whenever he was with a group of people at night or home with his wife and the conversation seemed to be ending, he would say, “All right, H.W.L.W.” H.W.L.W. stood for “His Word the Last Word,” and he practiced that through the years as a way of ending a day with one’s thoughts fixed on the Lord (Betty Lee Skinner, Daws, Zondervan, p. 103).
Stephen Olford, a great Christian and minister in New York for many years, said, “I want to hear the voice of God before I hear anyone else’s in the morning, and His is the last voice I want to hear at night.”
David and Daniel even met with the Lord three times each day (see Psalm 44:17; Daniel 6:10).
Whatever time you set, be consistent in it. Schedule it on your calendar; make an appointment with God as you would with anyone else. Make a date with Jesus! 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.
The question is often asked, “How much time should I spend with the Lord?” If you’ve never had a consistent quiet time before, you may want to start with 7 minutes (Robert D. Foster, Seven Minutes with God, NavPress) 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. Here are some additional guidelines:
Don’t try for a 2-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 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. Clock-watching can ruin your quiet time faster than almost anything else. Decide what you can do in the Word and prayer during the time you have selected; then do it. Sometimes it will take longer than planned and sometimes less time. But don’t keep looking at your watch.
Don’t emphasize quantity, emphasize quality. There is nothing super spiritual about having a 2-hour quiet time. It’s what you do during your time – 15 minutes or 2 hours or anything in between – that’s important. Aim for a quality relationship with the Lord.
CHOOSE A SPECIAL PLACE
The location of your quiet time 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 in 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 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.
• where you are comfortable. (WARNING: Do not have your quiet time in bed. That’s 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 Christ.
Your place ought to be a sacred place. This is where you meet with the living God. Where you meet the Lord can be just as holy as the place where Abraham met God. You 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 backyards, 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.
You will need the following three items for your planned quiet times:
• A Bible - a contemporary translation (not a paraphrase) with good print, preferably without notes.
• A notebook - for writing down what the Lord shows you, and for making a prayer list.
• A hymnbook - sometimes you may want to sing in your praise time (see Colossians 3:16).
The following 6-point plan is workable for a quiet time of any duration:
1. 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; see also Isaiah 30:15; 40:31). Be quiet for a short while to put yourself into a reverent mood.
2. 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:
“Search me, oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24; see 1 John 1:9)
3. Read a section of the Scripture (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 much; don’t race through it.
• Repeatedly - Read a passage over and over until you start to picture it in your mind. The reason people don’t get more out of their Bible reading is because they do not read the Scriptures repeatedly.
• 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. Read softly enough, however, so that you won’t disturb anyone.
• Systematically - Read through a book at a time in an orderly method. Do not use the “random dip” 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.
• To get a sweep of a book - On some occasions you may want to survey a whole book. In that case you will read it quickly to get a sweep of the total revelation.
4. Meditate and memorize (reflect and remember). In order to have the Scriptures speak to you meaningfully, you should meditate on what you are reading and memorize verses that particularly speak to you. Meditation 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.
5. 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 both to remember what God revealed to you and to check up on your biblical discoveries. Recording what God has shown you is a way of applying what you see in the Scripture that pertains to your life.
6. Have your 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 only 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 because missing one day does not make it a flop. 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. This same principle is true with your quiet time.
Psychologists tell us that it usually takes us three weeks to get familiar with some new task or habit; it takes another three weeks before it becomes a habit. The reason why many people are not successful in their quiet times is because they have never made it past that six-week barrier. For your quiet time to become a habit, you must have had one daily for at least six weeks.