Confessions of a Former Quiet Timer

verse of the month
The extent of this month’s personal study

Throughout most of my 20’s, I had a consistent, classic “quiet time” every day. Every weekday morning, I got up, read a chapter of the Bible, and wrote in my prayer journal. I had comprehensive prayer request lists and even prayed about specific topics on certain days of the week (I remember that Friday was for family, and Wednesday was to pray for spouses for my unmarried friends, and then for their marriages as they all got married). It was rewarding, but also something of a false security for me – even though I was a failure in other ways, at least I had this much-hyped aspect of the Christian life wrapped up. Despite not being a morning person AT ALL, I even did it in the morning, because that’s the holiest time of day to commune with God, right?

When I was 27, my ex-husband and I bought a house in the suburbs. I no longer lived down the street from my workplace and had to get up earlier. I tried to continue with my morning devotions, but they quickly dwindled to a few days a week. Eventually, after repeatedly staring drowsily at the same sentence for the entire time, I gave up. The old ways weren’t working anymore. I started reading and praying at night, inconsistently, but was never as focused or mindful about it again.

Lately I’m as far from that quiet time piety as I’ve ever been, and it worries me. Although I’m even more interested in the Bible now, I’m mostly getting it through other avenues – listening to sermons online, reading topical books, going to church and small groups. For whatever reason, it’s become really difficult for me to sit down alone and study the way I used to. I’ve already done the Bible in a Year program and am not in the mood to do it again, and I can’t just keep rereading Isaiah, the Psalms and the New Testament. A couple of months ago I bought a good commentary on Philippians (one of my favorites), thinking an in-depth study of one (easy) book would be interesting. Quality over quantity. But the discussion questions for each chapter take me forever to answer, and I don’t even feel like I’m retaining much. So I’m not up to date with that either. I’ve heard these same laments from many mom friends, but I don’t even have the acceptable distraction of a child. My distractions are other books, or my cats, or Friends reruns that I’ve seen ten times. Meanwhile, I hear things like, “Reading God’s Word regularly is essential to knowing Him,” and even “Your quiet time is as important as plans you make with friends, and if you don’t ‘show up,’ you are standing Jesus up.” I love God and want to know Him more, but at this time I can’t get motivated to habitually seek Him in this specific way. Sometimes I do genuinely want to, but it doesn’t happen on a schedule.

My individual prayer life doesn’t fall within measurable channels anymore either. I’ve become a person who prays for people and situations as they come to mind, and thanks God for things as they happen. I keep up a sort of casual conversation with Him throughout my day. But if I sit down alone with a list and try to grasp at prayer and do Real Spiritual Business, it runs through my hands like sand. I can’t concentrate or find the right words. Since my difficult times a few years ago, I’ve noticed that I pray on more of a gut level. Often when I feel passionate about something in prayer, I can’t even express my thoughts, so I send up a mostly wordless emotion and trust that the Holy Spirit can translate it. Is that lazy? Does it “count” for anything? I don’t know. Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life made me feel better about this, but it’s hard to shake off the feeling that prayer ought to look a certain way.

Believe it or not, this is only the tip of my iceberg of angst on the subject. I don’t have a decisive conclusion either. I’m mainly sharing so if others are struggling with this, they’ll know they’re not alone. I’ve given up on finding a quick fix to get me “back on track,” and am actually wondering if this is even something that needs to be fixed. Maybe this is a part of spiritual growth, and it’s okay to have an open mind. Maybe it’s another area where I need to start acting like I believe in grace, toward myself as well as toward others, instead of just talking about it.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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9 Responses to Confessions of a Former Quiet Timer

  1. Sarah N. says:

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve been in the same place for quite some time now and I honestly don’t know how to fix it either. I want to want to spend daily quiet time with God, but it can be such a chore. =\ I love Bible studies and small groups and prayer meetings and talking about God with others, but sit me down alone with my Bible, journal, and prayer list and my mind runs away screaming. I hate it.

  2. bluiis says:

    *hugs*

    I know what you mean. I’ve never been good at spending quiet time with God, though.

  3. Maria says:

    I know what you mean. For me it tends to come in ‘waves’ or phases. I tried over and over again over the years to start a prayer journal, and it always fizzled out after a couple of days. Two years ago I tried again, and this time it suddenly clicked! I’m not aware of doing anything different – I’m just in a different place in my life.

    On the other hand, about 5 years ago I was really good at reading my Bible regularly and analyzing what I had read… now? I’m lucky if I get even a psalm or two read during the week!

    I love your idea of listening to sermons online, but know it wouldn’t work for me at this point in time. Perhaps I will be sometime in the future, and that will be my next ‘phase’.

    • Good point. I like the idea that we just need different ways of connecting with God at different times of our lives. I don’t know how it is in Denmark, but in the American church there’s a lot of pressure to engage with God in specific, prescribed ways. I see more and more that our church culture is oriented toward a specific personality type, but that’s another post. :) Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Erin Perry says:

    I pray pretty much the same way. I think it is a great thing. We are taught that our prayers only count if they make sense to someone else who is listening in on them. The Bible says to pray continuously, I feel like this means that we are in that constant communication with God in our thoughts. If you think about it, that is more of a relationship than a specific time each day. I think we have to do what works for us.

    Recently I began listening to the Bible on my way to work each morning and it has been really good for me. I don’t know what your commute is like, but that is a good option. It can be a kind of pricey investment, but it might work.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! A friend suggested listening to the Bible to me once, and I thought it was a great idea and then forgot about it. :) Maybe there’s a Bible Pandora channel or something.

  5. Feeling stuff at God totally counts. :)

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