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What Do I Do in a Quiet Time?
A simple practice that makes a big difference
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16, NIV)
I've been reflecting on the question, "How do I hear from God?" Last week, I suggested that it's really quite simple–not always easy, but certainly not complicated. We can think of it as a formula:
Prayer + Scripture + Church Family + Obedience = Learning to Recognize God's Voice
One key in that formula is the word learning. That should keep us all humble as we listen and obey.
On to prayer, what does it look like to get alone with God and pray? I'm sure there are many people who could share great ideas and methods for solo prayer (aka, quiet time). I don't pretend to be some kind of guru here, but I'll gladly share what I do in my typical quiet time, and would love to hear what you do in your quiet time!
I start with coffee and a few minutes of focused quiet. I pray something simple, like, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." Then I open my Bible. I read through a passage of Scripture slowly, thoughtfully, several times. Sometimes it's shorter, sometimes longer. Sometimes I'll read through two or three different passages, like a Psalm and something from the New Testament. I'll reflect on things like: What does this passage reveal about God? What does this passage reveal about the world? What does this passage reveal about me? I'll ask God, "What do you want me to do? Is there anything here you want me to share with someone else? How do you want me to pray for myself, my family, or my church from this text? Is there anything else you want me to pray about?" When something in the passage seems confusing, I ask God, "What did you mean by that?"
Often, thoughts come to mind in response to some of these questions. It's really helpful to write them down in a journal. Sometimes, something from the text catches my attention, and I'll go back and reflect on it. Why did it stand out? After spending a little time meditating on the passage, I'll spend several more minutes sitting in silence listening. I'm reflecting on the thoughts that were stirred up in the passage and my questions.
Finally, I'll talk to God about what I read and thought of during my time. A fun thing to do is try and give God a name based on the Scripture. "Father of the fatherless," "Defender of orphans and widows," "God who sees me," "Compassionate Healer," etc.
One thing you may be noticing as you read this is that I don't really use pre-fab prayers, like the Lord's Prayer, Martin Luther's Morning Prayer, or the many Anglican and Roman Catholic prayers written in their daily prayer books. It's not that I don't find those prayers helpful; it's just that my coffee date with the Lord is typically a little less formal. Imagine going fishing with a good friend, sitting in the boat, and only speaking rehearsed speeches written by someone else decades or centuries ago.
Having said that, those pre-fab prayers are excellent for learning how to address God and what to pray about. And they often help us lift our eyes off of ourselves, keeping our prayers appropriately balanced on the needs of others and the world around us. I would like to find helpful and creative ways to work them into my practice of prayer. I think that's an area where I could stand to grow.
That's about it. For me, getting up before the rest of the house is the only way I can get a quiet time. So, I've learned to be an early riser. What does your quiet time look like? How do you hear God speaking to you?