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"Quiet Times"

2013-09-08 If you attended a Christian Union (or equivalent) as a schoolchild or student, you will already be familiar with the concept – if not always the practice – of “Quiet Times”.

What is it?

For those who aren’t familiar, the “Quiet Time” is a (ideally) daily exercise of taking some time out, and spending it intentionally with God. It usually involves elements such as worship, bible reading, prayer, journalling, meditation, and so on. Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer (or compline) are very structured way of doing this, required of all Church of England clergy as a part of their Daily Office. Compline is a particularly gentle way to end the day.

Less structured approaches include sitting in the study with a bible and a notebook and a cup of coffee, perhaps with a worship CD.

How to do it

It’s very simple – all you need is a bible (and sometimes not even that), and a little bit of quiet.

A really good tip is to have a bit of paper and a pen, to jot down those really important (but oh so distracting) thoughts that do pop into your head. “Ooo – I must remember to put butter on the shopping list” – fine, write down “butter” on your bit of paper, and then forget about until after your quiet time.

So, for a 10 minute “unstructured” quiet time, you could try the following:

  • 1 minute in quiet settling down and clearing your mind. You could also use a worship song here.
  • 2 minutes reading a short passage. A gospel or psalm chunks are good choices.
  • 1 minute thinking about it – perhaps asking God if he wants to say anything, or just “being”
  • 3 minutes praying to God. A good model is ACTS:
    • A – Adoration. “God you’re great”
    • C – Confession. “God, I did this, and I’m sorry. please forgive me.”
    • T – Thanksgiving. “Thank you that I got on ok with a difficult colleague today”
    • S – Supplication. “Please help the situation in Syria”
  • 2 minutes writing down in your Journal anything that struck you about the passage, or particular prayers you prayed, or actions you need to take.
  • 1 minute saying a short prayer of thanks, and ending.

Obviously any of these elements can be extended. You may be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes in worship if you have a CD that you particularly like. Or if you are halfway up a mountain you may spend much longer in the “being” phase, enjoying God’s wonderful creation.

The Daily Office liturgies mentioned above are a far formal setting (although can be done in 10 or 15 minutes), and broadly have this structure:

  • Preparation
  • Word of God (set readings from Psalms, OT and NT)
  • Prayers (including set collect)
  • Conclusion

The advantage is that all the work is done for you, and the lectionary (set readings) cover the whole bible over time.

In between these two approaches are “daily devotionals”. These are typically booklets lasting between a month and a quarter that have a usually have a short reading, a reflection/commentary, and a prayer every day (usually dated, e.g. “1st March 2013”). There are also masses and masses of these (e.g. at Eden Christian bookshop), and you are more or less gauranteed to find a flavour that suits your palate. I can particularly recommend Topz for 7-11 year olds.

Finally, you might like to consider setting 12 months aside to read the Bible in a year. My Bible in a year has readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms every day, and in chronological (as opposed to canonical) order.

If you have a dated resource, you should decide in advance what you will do if you miss a day. You may decide to read every entry (and hence get “behind” – it’s pointless trying to catch up by doing 2 a day), or you may decide to always do “today’s” entry (and hence sometimes miss entries). I would generally recommend the latter, as it gets very disheartening to always be 2 weeks behind!

Why do it?

There is an awful lot of guilt about this practice, especially in evangelical circles, where it can sometimes seem like if you spend less than an hour in your QT each day then you’re somehow a failure. However my experience is that even 5 or 10 minutes makes a tangible difference to my mental state, attitudes, and holiness.

To misquote a famous saying, if I miss one quiet time then I notice, two and my family notices, three and the whole world notices.

If we are seriously about being followers of Jesus, and being transformed into his likeness, then we kind of need to know what he looks like!

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