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If you search for a daily Bible reading program, you will most likely come across the Christianese term “quiet time.” I couldn’t find where the phrase originated, but, according to Wikipedia, it was sometime in the late 19th century. I believe a better phrase is private worship (as opposed to corporate worship within the church). See this post for an explanation of why private worship is a better fit.
One reason I prefer the term private worship instead of quiet time is because my life can be anything but quiet! If I am constantly waiting for the right time, the perfect moment to make myself a freshly brewed latte before gathering my Bible and perfectly organized prayer journal, I will never spend any time in this practice.
I do fall prey to this idea of needing a perfect time, space, and system. Pulling up Instagram, I am greeting with beautiful pictures of a 50-color highlighting system placed next to flawless latte art (because, of course). My reality looks like reading my Bible while seated at a table covered in dirty dishes, gulping coffee, and praying for a couple of minutes of peace before my toddler wakes up. I feel like my “quiet time” doesn’t measure up, so why bother.
Or, I think that I must follow their exact same steps if I want to have an “effective quiet time.” As I mentioned last week, I find myself searching for the best systems only to end up burnt out with a rote, mechanical “quiet time.”
I also talked about the heart of spiritual disciplines.
Prayer and Bible study are not things to be checked off a list. They are means of experiencing God’s grace – how we get to know Him and His character in greater, deeper ways. They drive us to give Him glory.
Where’s the balance? If I want to develop a habit of daily, private worship, where do I start and how do I make sure that it does not become a rote, to-do list?
Developing a Habit of Private Worship (Quiet Time Tips):
1. Check Your Heart
Even though this was the theme of last week’s post, I feel like it needs repeating. During private worship, we see many people do many different things – reading the Word, praying, singing, meditating on a piece of Scripture, memorizing a Bible verse, journaling about a verse, studying the passage (using a Study Bible, concordance, commentary, etc)…the list can go on. Two people may utilize three of the above methods in, what looks like, the exact same way, but have completely different motives.
This video discusses the motives or the heart of spiritual disciplines better than I could. In the video, Steve Childers says,
An inherent danger in spiritual disciplines is a propensity of the human heart to look to self-effort or practices or methodologies for growth. It is important to understand what is going on underneath the disciplines. What is the motivation for the discipline?…
Consequently, the quiet time often becomes simply a means by which they follow the discipline of reading Scripture versus a time where they use the Scripture to adore and worship God in Christ for who he is and for all he has done for them. But what is fascinating is: You can’t tell when you are just looking on the outside.
Ask yourself these questions. What is your motivation for reading the Word, praying, meditating on, and memorizing Scripture? Are you doing these things because you believe they will make you a good Christian? Do you feel like God won’t love you if you don’t read the Bible? If you still struggle with your motives, be sure to check out last week’s blog post and the resources at the end.
2. Read the Bible
When I made the switch from viewing the spiritual disciplines as quiet time to private worship, I viewed the practice as less about me and more about God. This is a way for me to know God, delight in His attributes, and be sanctified or conformed to His image. Yes, God has revealed Himself through nature (Romans 1:19-20), but we most clearly see His revelation through His inspired Word.
There are many Bible reading programs (check out the ones here and here), commentaries, study methods, etc. Although I love teaching others how to study the Bible, that is not what this post is about. Instead, we will keep it simple. Do you want to develop a personal habit of reading the Bible? Then, pick up your Bible and read it.
In Habits of Grace, David Mathis says,
As much as we want a quick fix, some fast lesson that makes us near-experts in just a few short minutes, the best of Bible reading isn’t learned overnight or even after a semester of lectures, but day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, imbibing the Bible, having God’s words inform our minds, inspire our hearts, instruct our lives. It is then that we slowly see the lights going on everywhere as we walk through life, and keep walking through the texts.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to make the text clear to you. Praise Him for the attributes you saw in your Scripture reading. Confess your sins – all the ways you do not measure up to God’s beautiful Holiness. Ask Him to align your desires with His. Thank Him for His many blessings. Pray for those around you and the rest of the world – for their needs, both physical and spiritual.
Let prayer flow out of your time reading the Word. Mathis puts it this way:
So, prayer—having God’s ear—is ultimately about having more of God. And having God’s ear (like hearing his voice) is not first and foremost about our particular practices and postures—the specific habits we develop—but the principle of continually relating to him, privately and with others. He is holy, and so we worship (adoration). He is merciful, and so we repent (confession). He is gracious, and so we express appreciation (thanksgiving). He is loving and caring, and so we petition him for ourselves, our family, our friends, and our world (supplication).
I hope the outcome of you reading this is that you give yourself grace and, through the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart, seek to daily know God more through reading the Word and praying. Be careful not to measure someone’s spiritual “success” (including your own) based on a beautiful, elaborate “quiet time.” However, systems and methods are not bad if your heart is in the right place. Worship God in all that you do. Give Him your rapt attention – especially in your private worship.
What Do You Think?
What do you think about the phrases “quiet time” or “personal worship”? How has the Holy Spirit changed your heart or motivation for Bible reading and prayer? What advice would you give to a new Christian who is just learning about the spiritual disciplines?