Winning the Quiet Time Battle
By Marcia McCready-Pallant
The alarm clock buzzes as the dark fog outside my window evaporates; it is morning again. In a last ditch effort to disconnect from the obligations of the day and cling to the warmth of my cocoon, I hit the snooze bar. There is nothing natural about getting up early to spend time with God - it is a struggle! My spirit cries out for nourishment; my body appeals for more sleep. Do I really believe that communion with God is vital or does my lack of zeal confirm otherwise?
For years I struggled to spend consistent, meaningful time with God. My intentions were good, but my noble efforts seemed doomed to fail. As a Christian leader, the guilt and shame I carried over this inconsistency were intense. After all, isn’t spending time with God supposed to be easy? Why was I having such a hard time with this?
The answers to these questions plagued me and caused me to cry out to God, “Give me a hunger and a thirst for You and Your Word. Teach me to pray. Don’t leave me as I am.” This prayer ushered me into a season of trials and tragedies that challenged my faith and left me totally out of control. I was desperate for direction, hope, peace, strength, and wisdom. In short, I was desperate for God.
This desperation was the missing piece, for the root of my struggle to connect with God was self-sufficiency. I was attempting to add another pious act to my Christian life, rather than seeking true intimacy with God. In Isaiah 29:13, God laments His people’s ritualistic service. He says that they come near Him with their mouth and honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Following rules taught by men does not please or impress God.
He is Able
The root of the struggle to commune with God is a heart issue. The solution to this struggle is the Spirit of God, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Eph. 3:20). For on our own, we can do nothing (John 15:5). As I have shared with other women in ministry, I have realized that this struggle is not uncommon, abnormal, or impossible to overcome. There is victory! I found it and so can you.
Victory Step #1: Plug into the Power – PRAY
There is nothing natural about communing with God; it is supernatural. Neither the desire nor the encounter comes from our natural man, for it is God who works in us “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).
Attempting to manufacture a consistent, meaningful encounter with God in our own strength is doomed to fail for we lack the divine element that makes success possible. It is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit (Zech. 4:6). This truth should drive us to prayer, our access to God’s transforming power.
Victory Step #2: Personal Planning - PRIORITIZE
“Come near to God and He will come near to you” ( James 4:8). Start looking at your daily quiet time as a personal appointment. Jesus is waiting for you to show up. Don’t stand Him up! Write this appointment in your planner. Make it a priority rather than an option. In Gail MacDonald’s book, High Call High Privilege, she suggests that we treat this appointment with Christ as any other. If some sort of legitimate interference makes it impossible to meet with Him, we need to reschedule for later that same day.
We need to understand that our time is important to God. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Our busy and somewhat turbulent lives need the solace that comes from being reminded that God is with us. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28). God promises to bless abundantly all those who seek His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:33). So set the appointment. It will be well worth your time.
Victory Step #3: The Price of Discipleship – PREPARE TO PAY
We live in a culture driven by instant gratification and selfish desires. There is much talk of privileges, rights, freedom, and happiness. Unfortunately, the concept of sacrifice is not popular, even among Christians. Yet, Jesus clearly instructs His followers to deny themselves and take up their cross, which symbolizes faithfulness to the point of death (Matt. 16:24).
Establishing a consistent, meaningful time with God requires sacrifice. As you attempt to carve out your ‘appointment’ with God, you will face decisions to sacrifice sinful desires or worthless activities in order to become an authentic disciple.
For me, sacrifice involved providing my body with the proper rest in order to be alert. I am a night owl, which means that I thrive after 10 p.m. Unfortunately, this tends to rob me of the energy needed for the following day. I have tried to have my quiet time at night, but still found myself too exhausted in the morning to reap any real spiritual benefit. After fighting this battle for years, I have found that for me going to bed earlier is prerequisite to spending meaningful time with God in the morning. Being awake enough to seek God is well worth the sacrifice of my late nights. I will not offer the Lord that which cost me nothing (2 Sam. 24:24).
How about you?
What sacrifices do you need to make? Again, prayer is the key to winning this battle. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit grants the wisdom and desire to let go of what seems precious to gain what is far more valuable. As Jim Elliot wrote so many years ago, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Victory Step #4: Proclaim Him - PRAISE
There are two kinds of people in the world, givers and takers. Givers love to serve and takers love being served. Givers overtax themselves, while takers overtax their relationships. As Christian workers, we tend to be strong givers, except in this area of personal quiet time. From God we seek blessing, empowerment, and inspiration, yet often omit offering adoration and thanksgiving, which makes for a very one-sided relationship.
We focus on our need rather than giving back to God. In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren defines worship as bringing pleasure to God, not ourselves. When we take time to thank Him for His many blessings, we worship Him or give Him pleasure. Worship is giving God what is rightfully His. Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.” If you want to deepen your relationship with God, don’t forget to praise!
Victory Step #5: Practice the Presence - PONDER
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). When your quiet time is done, is your communion with God over? Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, believed that set times of prayer should be no different than other times. Activity did not divert him from God; rather, it aided him in controlling any wandering and useless thoughts. Lawrence’s very countenance was edifying, for his life was a continual exercise of love. Even undesirable tasks had significance when accomplished with a prayer-filled mind. Practicing the presence of God allowed him to pass through life joyfully.
To practice the presence of God, I have found it helpful to write a key verse or thought on a card to carry with me during the day. I have found that talking to God about and during the mundane activities of my day reminds me of His presence and allows me to serve with joy. Listening to inspirational music or choosing specific objects to prompt prayer or thanksgiving reminds me to ponder the things of God instead of wandering from them.
Seek Him with all of Your Heart
Communing with God is not natural, it is a divine, lofty, yet realistic goal. God promises that we will seek and find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jer. 29:13). I hope you are encouraged that you are not alone, and victory is possible, even promised. So, don’t hit that snooze bar and miss out on the blessings God has for you. He is waiting to meet with you today. Now, that is news worth jumping out of bed for!
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