A (Not So) Revolutionary Strategy for Great Quiet Times

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

A (Not So) Revolutionary Strategy for
Great Quiet Times

By Heather Pace

Bible reading and prayer are undeniable staples in the Christian diet. Yet as universal as the daily “quiet time” is, it’s interesting to note how few people feel successful in the endeavor.

Just ask a room full of Christians how many minutes they spent in concentrated prayer last week—and listen to the room fall silent. Ask how engaged they were in Bible reading, Bible memorization, or any type of Bible study—and prepare to hear the crickets chirp.

So many Christians live with the nagging feeling that time with God doesn’t hold the priority it should in their lives. They want to make progress, but they just can’t seem to master the art of quality quiet times. Worse, many start to think of their quiet time as the enemy they can’t conquer, instead of the life-giving friend it is.

Real Struggle

Why are quiet times such war? Perhaps it’s because of unrealistic expectations or lack of diligence. Maybe it’s because the quiet times others post on social media make ours look subpar.

Or what if we’re making the whole thing more complicated than it needs to be?

Angst about quiet times is often connected to barely having them. Imagine how successful you’d feel if you spent a little time in God’s Word and prayer every day for the next year. What if you didn’t let the busyness of life undermine your time at Jesus’s feet (Luke 10:38–42)? Without even speaking of “quality time,” a legitimate quantity would make a massive difference.

Besides, merely “checking the box” quickly moves beyond that motivation. God’s Word is so good, and prayer is so profitable that if we just commit to these practices, results will follow. A momentum will develop. Faithfulness will lead not only to built-in routine, but also to life-changing habit.

Here are three reasons why mere faithfulness works.

1. God’s Word Will Change You

The Bible has a way of convicting our hearts, correcting our thoughts, awakening our spirits, and changing our lives (Heb. 4:12). Psalm 19 says God’s Word revives our soul, brings wisdom, rejoices our heart, enlightens our eyes, and, of course, keeps us from sin (Ps. 19:7–11).

Read the rest here.

When I’m dealing with disappointment…

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve shared one of my devotionals that was published in Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional is included in the section titled “Prayers of Supplication.”

When I’m dealing with disappointment . . .

Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, 
but a sudden good break can turn life around. 
—Proverbs 13:12 MSG

 

Without counsel purposes are disappointed:
but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. 

—Proverbs 15:22 KJV

 

You heard their cries for help and saved them; 
they were never disappointed when they sought your aid. 
—Psalm 22:5 TLB

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who 
love God, who are called according to his purpose. 
—Romans 8:28 NRSV

 

Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad?
Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again 

praise him for his help. 
—Psalm 42:5 TLB

 

. . . I will pray.

My Loving Father,

If only I hadn’t gotten my hopes up, but I did—and now I feel so disappointed and discouraged. Sometimes I wonder if anything will ever work out for me. Everybody keeps telling me it’s just a little bump in the road, but it doesn’t feel like a bump to me. It feels as I’ve gone off the road completely.

I know I’m probably overreacting, and I also know that I probably wouldn’t be feeling this way right now if I had taken time to talk to You about this situation in the beginning. Would You have steered me in another direction? Or allowed me to move ahead for some higher purpose in my life? I’ll probably never have an answer to that. The point is that I didn’t give You a chance to help me see things from Your perspective.

Lord, take this disappointment I’m feeling and transform it into something positive—a reminder to seek Your guidance; a renewed sense of Your presence with me when things work out and when they don’t; and compassion for others when they feel hopeless and disappointed.

Thank You for being the God of second chances.

Amen.

There is no disappointment to those whose wills are 
buried in the will of God. 
—Frederick Faber


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC

Attentive Listening

Attentive Listening

By Pat Knight

Mary of Bethany, a sibling of Martha and Lazarus, possessed enviable listening skills. When Jesus visited their home, she sat at His feet with her rapt attention hanging on each of her Master’s words. Mary unabashedly worshipped Jesus, captivated by her Friend to the exclusion of all others present.

 On the same occasion when Mary and Martha prepared a dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Martha demanded. “‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (Luke 10:40). To Martha’s surprise, the Lord commended Mary’s actions, tenderly replying, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has shown what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).

Both Mary and Martha loved their Lord, but Martha allowed distractions to divide her devotion. No doubt she wanted a delicious, perfectly presented dinner for her guests, straight from Martha Stewart’s handbook. But, it was Mary who displayed compassion, kneeling before Jesus, intently absorbing every word, noticing each gesture, studying His facial expressions, and discerning silent or spoken aspects of His conversation. Mary listened audibly and visually.

On that evening of dinner fellowship six days prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in anticipation of His upcoming sacrifice. She didn’t ask her Lord’s permission; she intuitively knew that Jesus would approve of her gracious act. Surrounded by men, Mary wasn’t intimidated. Loosening her long hair to wipe Jesus’ feet of excess oil displayed Mary’s humility; a respectable woman didn’t unbind her hair in public. Her submissive spirit was apparent; caring for feet was servant’s work. Mary’s actions spoke volumes. By anointing Jesus’ feet, she demonstrated that she understood Jesus’ teaching about His future death and burial far better than His disciples did.

Listening is an active art. It takes commitment to heed God’s words. To hear well, we must concentrate fully, not permitting distractions to eclipse our attention. Adequate listening skills allow us to know the will of our heavenly Father for our individual lives. We hear God speak to us through His Word as He communicates His love, commands, and our relationship to Him and to others.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
—Psalm 66:19-20

Prayer time without listening is simply a one-sided conversation, a monologue rather than a dialogue. “Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20). Prayer and praise, listening and love, complement one another as we interact with Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.

God no longer speaks audibly or in dreams to believers as was His custom in times past. Now the Holy Spirit interprets God’s messages and illuminates God’s written Word, making His personal guidance and wisdom available to us.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the large crowd was listening to him with delight” (Mark 12:35a; 37b). When was the last time you listened to your Lord during prayer, from His Word, or while reading Christian literature, reacting with extreme satisfaction and great pleasure, the kind of attention Almighty God deserves?

Let us not miss the sovereign plans about which God desires to advise us through His Spirit. Live in anticipation of His words, confident that our two-way communication is functioning to full capacity. More than any other discernable sound in our world, yearn to recognize God’s soothing words. He provides power to persist toward the ultimate goal of spiritual victory as we listen, follow, and trust Him explicitly.

A father used a game of ball toss as an object lesson to instruct his son regarding a well-balanced conversation. For a while the two threw the ball back and forth, settling into a predictable rate. Then, the father dropped the ball and refused to continue the volley. When the bewildered son asked his parent to explain his behavior, his father compared his actions to those of an unbalanced verbal discussion: just as dropping or hogging the ball disrupts a game, such is the way with conversation involving an unequal exchange of listening and speaking. Concentration is required to keep the ball in motion just as shared dialogue keeps conversation moving. Prayer, like a game of ball, is participatory activity. The alternative is talking to oneself, and we all know how non-stimulating that can be!

Our Lord is never too busy, distracted, or preoccupied to harken to the emotions attached to each word. God listens with love. Though He is aware of the intent of our hearts before we speak, God is pleased to hear from us. “‘Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear’” (Isaiah 65:24).

If we maintain candid, vivacious communication with God, as Mary of Bethany demonstrated, our listening skills will soon produce pleasing acts of worship to Him and service to others. Jesus promised, “‘You are my friends if you do what I command’” (John 15:14). What a privilege, to claim the sovereign Savior as a personal friend, who listens to us and expects attentiveness to His voice. Could there be anything more satisfying?

Before you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of entangled thoughts and distractions, to focus entirely upon the glory of God. Then your heart will be receptive to His guidance. In the quietness of your prayer time, ask God to reveal Himself. He will gladly open your mind and heart to reveal paths to follow Him. “Listen to my instructions and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me” (Proverbs 8:33-34a).

Learn to be attentive to your Savior with the bold singlemindedness Mary exhibited. Incredible interactions occur at the feet of Jesus as we submit, weep, confess, and listen for our Master’s divine words designed solely for our needs.

Thankful for God’s Provision

This is another of my devotionals that was published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His provision . . .

My God shall supply all your need
according to his riches in glory
by Christ Jesus.
—Philippians 4:19 KJV

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You.
—Psalm 130:3-4 NASB

[Jesus said] Don’t worry about food—what to eat and drink;
don’t worry at all that God will provide it for you.

All mankind scratches for its daily bread,

but your heavenly Father knows your needs.

He will always give you all you need from day to day

if you will make the Kingdom of God 
your primary concern.
—Luke 12:29-31 TLB

He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
—Psalm 111:5 RSV

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us
by his own glory and goodness.
—2 Peter 1:3 NRSV

. . . I will pray.

Gracious Father,

I’m getting ready for a camping trip and realize I don’t have everything I need. My tent and sleeping bag will give me protection at night. I’ll take my poncho in case it rains and some warm clothing in preparation for the predicted cold weather. My list includes enough food and beverages for the weekend, various cooking implements, a flashlight and lantern to enable me to see after dark, and various medications I need to take. I check off each of these items against my list, but it seems that I’m forgetting something, some provision. What could it be?

We both know that I know what’s missing, Lord. I can cover the easy stuff—food, beverages, pans—but I need Your help to see to the things I can’t: the unseen, the unexpected, the unplanned.

Thank You for all You supply on my behalf. You’re like a hedge of protection around me, providing me with whatever I need to face a weekend campout or an everyday circumstance. Thank You, my Lord. I wouldn’t think of going anywhere without You.

Amen.

God is absolutely unlimited in His ability and His resources.
And He is unlimited in His desire to pour out those resources upon us.

—Gloria Copeland


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

#Thankful for God’s #Forgiveness

This is another of my devotionals that was published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His forgiveness . . .

If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:9 NKJV

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You.
—Psalm 130:3-4 NASB

You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to You.
—Psalm 86:5

All the prophets testify about him
that everyone who believes in him
receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
—Acts 10:43

. . . I will pray.

Benevolent Father,

It happened again. Just when I started feeling as if things were going well, I messed up. Instead of keeping my focus on You, I let myself be pulled into a bad situation—something that is not what You want for me and certainly does not glorify You. How does this keep happening? Never mind, I know. You try to warn me, but I always insist on going my own way.

Forgive me, Lord—again. Wash me clean and help me to be vigilant, listening carefully to Your Spirit inside my heart. My desire is to please You, but we both know that I can’t make that a reality without Your help. Let me live ever aware of Your presence. As I practice living in Your presence, I believe that sin will lose its power over me.

I know, Lord, that You are a kind, loving, and merciful God, and I know You desire only the best for me. I am so thankful for Your willingness to forgive me each and every time. I praise You above all others, for You are the one who has washed me clean.

Amen.

When God pardons, He consigns the offense
to everlasting forgetfulness.

—Merv Rosell


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

AnytimePrayersForEverydayPeople

Keep Our Eyes on God

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.

—Psalm 86:1-7

#JOYFUL in #HOPE

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
—Romans 12:9-13