What do I do during a quiet time?
Are you ready to maintain a consistent time of devotion, meditation and prayer, but you’re not sure where to begin?
It’s tough, I know. We want to spend time with God, but sometimes we just don’t know how to start or what to do.
We sit down with our Bibles and maybe a journal and think, “Now what?”
I’d like to share with you how I set up my quiet time; perhaps it will inspire you to do the same!
Now just to be clear, this is not the only way to do devotional time, and my own version has varied considerably over the years, but I really thrive when I have a solid structure in place.
A framework for devotional time helps break it into bite-sized bits that allow us to spend more time with God because we don’t feel quite so overwhelmed!
Christians call their personal time with God by lots of different names, but the main goal is always this: to know God better and to love Him more.
It’s very hard to maintain a vibrant, intimate relationship with God if you don’t have some bit of time set aside daily to spend with Him, but we often let other things crowd our time with Him out.
Friend, please fight for time with God. It is so worth it!
A Good Starting Framework
Here’s what’s been working for me lately. You can begin with this quiet time structure and then change it to do what works for you.
I divide this intentional devotional time into four quadrants, whether I have 30 minutes or two hours. I prefer to do it in the morning as soon as I get up, but I know that life situations may keep that from working for you.
Just try to get it in, however you can.
You’ll be glad you did!
The Four Segments
- Memory Work
- Bible Reading
- Prayer Time
- Devotional Reading
Divide the time you have available by four: If you have an hour, each of these segments would take 15 minutes each. Most people don’t have an hour in the morning, so it might work better to split this up and do two in the morning and two before you go to bed.
I set a timer for an hour on my phone and just look at it occasionally to make sure I’m staying on track.
You don’t have to freak out if you go over on one portion or another; it will all balance out. And really, any time pursuing God is time well spent.
1. Memory Work
Memorizing Bible verses is not just for kids (though it is certainly easier when you are young)!
I remember when I was in 6th grade, I attended a big community-wide Girl’s Bible Study. If we memorized Philippians 2: 1-11 by Christmas, we won a cute pink sweatshirt with the name of the Bible Study on it.
Boy, did I want that sweatshirt!
So I set aside time and learned those verses by heart, and I can still remember saying them all to the Bible Study Leader. I was so nervous, but I did it and wore my sweatshirt with pride for quite some time!
These days, there is no sweatshirt to work for, but I still commit to memorizing Scripture. I find it helps me to recite those verses when I’m anxious or sad or even just trying to go to sleep at night. The Word of God is a comfort.
I’m not nearly as good at retaining those verses in my mind as I was when I was young and my mind was a little more sponge-like, but it’s still worth the effort, even if I can’t say them all perfectly.
I try to memorize 3 verses each week. If you want to follow the same plan I do, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send you a PDF!
Some popular systems to choose from are The Topical Memory System by the Navigators, BibleMemory.com, and Fighter Verses. All three of these are also offered as Apps for your mobile devices in the Android or Apple App Store.
Why Memory Work First?
I start my devotional time with Memory Work for two reasons:
- I like to do my devotions first thing in the morning, and I am sleepy! Memory Work is the mental equivalent of jumping jacks to wake your brain up. It’s easy to doze off during Bible reading, but harder if you are saying words out loud and your dogs are looking at you like you are crazy!
- I do my devotions in my kitchen area, and I get really self-conscious and distracted if my family is up and moving around. This makes it much harder to actually retain what I am trying to memorize! If I do the memory work (saying the verses out loud) first thing, I’m the only one up (well, plus the dogs), so it’s a relatively distraction-free environment.
2. Bible Reading
Read your Bible! It’s as simple as that!
When you spend time in God’s Word, you grow closer to Him.
You are abiding and learning and strengthening your faith, even if it may not feel like it at times.
It’s always, always worth it.
I’ve heard Bible Study and Memorization compared to putting deposits in a savings account, however small the amount.
Over time, those deposits accumulate and become a treasure trove for when you face serious pain and hard times.
Jesus compared hearing and obeying His words like building your house upon a solid rock instead of sand. It’s a wise thing to do; when the storms come, your house will stand.
Where do you start?
Well, really, wherever you want!
But if you want some guidance, here are some solid recommendations:
- The Gospel of John is an excellent beginning point, as is either Genesis or Matthew. Just read as much as you can in your allotted time.
- If you want to read your Bible electronically, the YouVersion App has many reading plans from which to choose.
- If you want a Bible dedicated to daily readings, The One Year Chronological Bible (NIV version) is one I’ve used for years. I like it because it is compiled chronologically (roughly in the order in which the Biblical events happened).
- If you want a paper PDF to tuck in your Bible, try the Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading plan. It takes you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament (along with Psalms and Proverbs) twice. There’s also a two year version of the RMM plan if you’d like to slow down the pace a bit. (A nice complement to this plan is Don Carson’s two-volume devotional that follows along the daily Bible readings.)
3. Prayer Time
If I’m being honest, this one is super hard for me. If I just pray in my head, I will be off on some rabbit trail thought pattern in about 90 seconds, if that.
Here are some ideas to stay on track:
- Journal your prayers. Just write them down! Grab some pretty colorful pens, a notebook (I have this one and like it) and pour out your heart to God. This is a great place to start, and it may become your favorite way to pray. Keep the bar low; if you don’t want to buy anything new, just look around the house and commandeer the first half-used, now-discarded notebook you can find.
- Make prayer cards. How many times has someone asked for prayers, or you’ve told someone you would pray for them and then it’s flown out of your head? Then you run into that person again and you mentally smack yourself on the forehead, thinking, Aaagh, I said I’d pray for her situation and I totally forgot! Instead, grab your phone and create a Note for prayer requests. Write the request down while you’re talking to the person or as soon as you walk away. You can use this Note to help you remember requests or you can transfer that information to a stack of 3×5 index cards.
- Pray out loud.
- Use guided prayers. The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers that you can pray through. Sometimes the words just won’t come; these prayers help you when you’re just not sure what to even say.
- Use a simple formula for prayer:
- 3 things you’re thankful for
- 3 people who need help
- 3 things that amaze you about God
- 3 sins you want to defeat in your own life.
4. Devotional Reading
This is where you plug in whatever book you’re reading that helps you to think more about who God is and who you are in relation to Him.
It could be:
- a Bible study workbook
- a devotional book with a different reading for every day of the year. Right now I’m going through Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms. This is just a pared-down version of Calvin’s commentary on the Psalms, and it’s really rich and good (my second journey through this book, so you know I’m a fan).
- books on theology or Christian living by such authors as Jen Wilkin, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Paul Tripp… to name a few. There are so many good books out there!