How To Do Your Quiet Times
Lifestyle

How To Do Your Quiet Times

A few thoughts on the importance of prayer, Bible reading, worship, meditation, and teaching.

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@caroline_studies

While I have made pictures of my quiet times very public through my Bible journaling Instagram and have spoken extensively of how I highlight and draw boxes for my inductive Bible study, I recently realized that while I have described what I do with my pens and highlighters, I have never described what I do with my mind or soul. And I see that as a shortcoming, because if I teach girls to highlight and not how to study God's word, then I should literally delete everything because it's better off not being out there.

Highlighting is fun and pretty and everyone loves to do it, but it does not sustain your quiet times. It can inspire you to read your Bible once, but it cannot keep you coming back. It is, after all, just colored ink. Nothing less than the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the eternal words from God to humans can sustain and nourish a Christian woman for her walk through a world owned by Satan, who is hell-bent (literally) on destroying her.

The following description is intended to provide some ideas for getting started with your quiet time, but if you knew what a blazing, white-hot trash fire I am, you would be aghast at the idea of copying me exactly, so please do not. I am learning too.

The way you do your quiet time depends somewhat on where you are in your walk with Christ, but the components should generally be the same: personal worship, prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, and teaching. You don't have to do them all every day, except for prayer, but the more you do, I think you'll find the more you desperately want to do them. However, if you're a newer believer, especially one who's self-disciplined almost to a fault like me, it can quickly become drudgery that you dread, so, by all means, avoid that and just do what you can daily.

For personal worship, I made a Spotify playlist of Christian songs which I listen and sing to on my way to and from my job, which is about 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back on weekdays. The purpose of this is not to listen to feel-good songs. This is not explicitly to "encourage" you (although I think you'll find that done correctly, it will) but to celebrate and reflect on God--His character and attributes. I hate when Christians derail worship with singing exclusively about how loved THEY are and how Jesus pursues THEM, just sitting there like butter in the sunshine, thinking they're the center of the universe. Elements such as our wretched sinfulness, our terrifying, hollow inability to save ourselves, the grace of God, and the triumph of Jesus's victory over death are missing. All this to say, it matters what songs you select. Older songs are often better, but I prefer a mix of old and new since there are still plenty of doctrinally sound Christian men and women glorifying God in song.

Prayer is a discipline of the mind. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to pray without ceasing. The Greek phrase adialeiptos, rendered here "without ceasing" means that it should be frequent and steady; it does not literally mean that it's a sin to do anything else with your mind besides pray. I'm still by no means as good at this as I should be, but I try to talk to God constantly. If someone cuts me off, rather than tapping out "Go to hell" with my horn in Morse code, I try to choose to think, "Lord, I did not like that very much, but I pray that that person comes to know You if they haven't already" and respond like that to everyday situations to Him. This helps me keep my thoughts less sinful than they'd otherwise be since it is a reminder that He knows my heart and holds me accountable for its attitudes.

The second aspect of prayer is the focused prayer that we do without doing anything else. I am not as good at this as I should be, but before I read Scripture, I pray that the Holy Spirit will convict me of sin and reveal the meaning of the text to me. I also try to pray a few minutes a day for my parents, siblings, friends, future husband, etc.

I am a full-time student with two jobs, so it is imperative that I manage my time well to leave space in my life for Bible reading. I had a giant Bible that I adored and had years of notes in (it had cross-references, a concordance, maps, all 9 of the yards) but I retired it in favor of a smaller Bible that I can easily put in my bag and not feel it. At one of my jobs, I am allowed to study while I work, so I often read there. At the other, I often arrive early to school to pick up my charge and read in my car for those 10 minutes. Sometimes I take a few minutes when I sit down to do schoolwork. A couple of mornings a week, I am able to have a deluxe quiet time at home. I generally aim for the mornings, because if I don't have a quiet time my road rage gets out of control and I demand to speak to managers about the slightest inconvenience, but some people prefer the evenings.

When I read the Bible, I only read as much as I am able. I am so methodical and obsessive that to really study an entire chapter takes at least two hours, so I don't frequently finish one at one go. I average about ten verses at a time, usually a sub-grouping of a chapter. I read through and take my own notes about them in my wide margins--some days I think of more information than others. These notes can be about a word, phrase, verse, or multiple verses. They can be anything from a memory associated with the verse, a connection to a personal struggle, a bit of information I happen to know or recall, a re-phrasing of the verse to help myself understand, a personal application, a question, an application to some theological category, or really a number of other things. I write those down first because though they are not brilliant, they are terribly fleeting, unlike notes from books.

If it was a dry day for my brain, or if I don't understand the passage very well, I whip out my iPad mini and go to my Matthew Henry Commentary app, which works offline. This is my favorite commentary because it nourishes my heart as well as my brain--Matthew Henry just has a way of showing how each passage relates to the Gospel with eloquence and vigor and grace and it blesses my socks off every time. He also is good at dumbing down complex passages so that college students with 3 remaining brain cells can understand, without losing any of the theological rigor. I take notes from that, particularly about verses I don't get and interesting tidbits of background information about the text.

When I am at home, I also refer to my Macarthur Study Bible. It is too heavy to lug around, but I am a MacArthur-ite through and through and I love his notes. I rewrite my favorites or notes that I find helpful into my journaling Bible.

If I am interested, for any reason, in a particular word, I get out my iPad Mini again and look it up in my Strong's Concordance app. That app was the best $4.99 I ever spent.

Some days my entire life is on fire and I don't have time for highlighters and iPads. On those days, I just read the Bible app on my phone. I don't consider it the most ideal study situation since it's hard for me to interact with the text, but if we're between that and the mood where I do things like call up Texas A&M Transportation Services to demand why I can't find a parking spot when I pay $500 a year for a parking pass, it's better to get some Scripture into me by any means necessary.

Meditation is the next component of quiet times which gets less airtime at the church since it is associated with Eastern religions. However, in the Psalms, there are little "Selah"s scattered liberally throughout, indicating that the Psalmist wanted the singer or reader to pause and think about what was just said. Most of us are too ADHD to actually sit and meditate on Scripture for uninterrupted periods of time (which is a shame and something I want to work on, but I also have to be honest about where I am right now, which is not there) so for many people it helps to journal about Scripture. Try to do at least some of this, starting small, in your journaling Bible, journal, or a Google Doc. Just write about whatever is on your mind related to the passage.

Finally, we have teaching. While every Christian is capable of reading, understanding, and interpreting Scripture for themselves, we also all have preconceived ideas and biases that we can quickly get off into the sticks with (and end up like this). Interpreting the Bible for ourselves is a tremendous privilege, but it comes with a weighty responsibility not to allow ourselves to stagnate, become wise in our own eyes, or only see what we want to see, which requires that we continually expose ourselves to new information that requires us to think critically. I am not saying we should deliberately imbibe false teaching, but it is good to listen to a good variety of preachers and teachers and read a good variety of books that expose us to new theological information and perspectives. There are some Christians who think it's bad to listen to YouTube sermons because it makes us more critical of our own pastors, and while I don't agree at all with criticizing our pastors, I think it's possible to listen to lots of good preachers without doing so. The truth is that the Internet provides us with an astounding array of options that leave us without excuse for theological ignorance. We have more resources than any other Christians in history. It would be crazy not to avail ourselves of them--one hour of teaching a week isn't enough. But books are good too.

The way that I create space in my life for teaching is usually to listen to sermons while I do something mundane, like cleaning my room or kitchen, taking a bath, or putting on makeup. We all have 24 hours in the day, so it's up to us to creatively integrate the things that are important to us. Sundays I don't allow myself to study, and I usually cannot nap Sunday afternoons or I'll ruin my sleep schedule, so that has become my cherished book-reading time. Some evenings when I can't sleep I also pick up my book and read until I fall asleep.

I hope that this description of how I implement the spiritual disciplines in my own life has been helpful to you or at least fun to read, and if you have a better way to do something or think I'm missing something (I'm trying to figure out a doable way to memorize Scripture regularly) please do let me know!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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