As a pastor I’m often asked about how to grow spiritually. One of the best ways to begin your spiritual growth is to spend time alone with God. This is often referred to as “having a devotion” or a “quiet time.” A quiet time is dedicated time to hear what God has to say through His Word and to talk to God through prayer. Let me give you six tips to maximize your time alone with God.
Tip #1 – Have a consistent place
Have that consistent place where you go to have time alone with God. Before He was betrayed and arrested, “Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives” where He and some of His disciples prayed. The phrase “as usual” gives us an indication that spending time with the Heavenly Father was a normal and consistent habit of Jesus. It also tells us that Jesus had a consistent routine of going to the same place, “the Mount of Olives.” Whether you go to a mountain, park, an office, back porch, living room, kitchen, or the front seat of your car, have that consistent place where you can be alone with God (Matthew 6:6).
Not only should it be a consistent place, but it should also be a place with as few distractions as possible. Turn off the TV and the radio, and silence your phone. Make yourself unavailable to the world and only to God for a few minutes. This is where God has your undivided attention. I also would like to add, if possible, that it be a place where you can talk to God or sing to God out loud. But no matter what, have a consistent place.
Tip #2 – Have a consistent time
Having a consistent time means…
Choose the best time for you to be alone with God that day. For some people they are like the Psalmist who said, “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3, NLT). Others are like the Psalmist who wrote, “I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night” (Psalm 63:6, NLT). Whether your time alone with God is in the morning or at night, the main objective is to spend time alone with God. Some people are morning people and are able to clearly focus on God’s Word and talk to God about the upcoming day, while others take a while to wake up and the best time for them may be later in the day. Just give God your best time, best energy, and best focus.
Choose the length of time. If having a quiet time is new to you, then start short (10-15 minutes). Don’t over burden yourself with a lengthy quiet time. Think quality, not quantity.
Don’t be legalistic about it. If you miss a day, it’s not the end of the world and God still loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Depending on your work schedule or family schedule you may need to have a quiet time in the morning on Monday, in the afternoon on Tuesday, and in the evening on Wednesday. This is about a relationship with God, not keeping rules for a quiet time.
Be considerate to those in your life. Don’t let the devil use your quiet time to create an argument with your family or spouse. If one of your children or your spouse interrupts you reading the Bible or praying, be polite, kind, and gracious. If you find yourself barking at them, then your time alone with God may not be accomplishing what it’s supposed too. Plan your quiet time around your family. This means get up earlier or wait until they all have gone to bed. Be considerate.
Tip #3 – Have good resources
To help you have a productive quiet time you need good resources. I would recommend the following:
A readable Bible. Choose a good translation that makes sense to you. If you are new to reading the Bible, then I would recommend the New Living Translation. It does an excellent job of balancing readability and translating the original text.
A practical devotional book. There are many good devotionals and other books you can choose from, but if you are new to the Christian life, I would highly recommend The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Technically, this is not a devotional but the chapters are very short and very practical.
A notebook. Using a notebook is not for everyone, but many find it helpful. In your notebook you can record your prayer requests, spiritual journal, or insights from what you read in the Bible or the devotional book. Some like to keep a spiritual journal of what God is teaching them and what they are seeing God do in their life.
Tip #4 – Have the right attitude
Approach God and your time alone with Him with these three attitudes.
Reverence. God said, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10, NLT). This is what your quiet time is all about. Approach God with reverence, admiration, and awe. See and hear God in these moments of calmness and quietness between yourself and Him.
Expectation. The Psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalm 119:18, NLT). God wants to talk to you. He wants to show what path to take, decision to make, and tell you wonderful things about yourself, others, and Him.
Desire. Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else…” (Matthew 6:33, NLT). Make knowing God and seeking His kingdom a passion. Let it consume you. Let it be a fire within your bones.
Tip #5 – Have a simple plan
Don’t over complicate it. Here is a simple plan for you to try.
Relax. Be still and quiet! Slow down. Take a few breaths and say, “God, here I am wanting to hear from you and talk to you.”
Read. Whether you are reading straight from the Bible or from a devotional, make sure you are paying attention to what God may be saying to you. What word, phrase, or sentence grabbed your attention? Why did it catch your eye today? Why is it significant to you? Think about it and how to apply it to your life.
Reflect. This overlaps with the “read” section above. This is where you intentionally ask good questions about what you just read. I would suggest you reflect on these six questions: What does this tell me about God? Does this tell me about a sin I need to repent of or something I need to change in my life? What does this say about how I treat others? Does this teach me anything about how the devil may be pulling me away from God’s truth and God’s way? Does this challenge a belief or thought I have? What does this say about my emotions and feelings?
Record. Keep a spiritual journal. Write down the most important lesson or thought from your quiet time. After you’ve written in your journal, read the last two entries to refresh your mind of what God has been saying to you.
Request. Conclude your time with talking to God about what He showed you in your quiet time. Also, use this time to pray for others or to pray over your prayer list.
Tip #6 – Make it a priority
Have the attitude the psalmist had in Psalm 119:72, which reads “Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver” (NLT). Make it a priority. Put it on your calendar. Block off time for it. Make it happen. Start saying yes to this and no to something else. God will bless you for it.