Three Ways your ‘Quiet Time’ Can Hurt More Than Help
A Challenge to Replace it with a Better Way
I have been doing a lot of coaching these last several months with both non-profit and business leaders. One issue continues to dominate these coaching sessions. Every leader is struggling with their ‘quiet time’. The challenges are common to all; distractions, work pressures, stagnancy, family responsibilities, fatigue…sound familiar?
I’m learning that while the pursuit of meaningful devotional time with the Lord is laudable, there is a dark side to this pursuit. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the enemy can distort even something as holy as the desire to spend time with God and turn it into a weapon against us. Here are three ways that the enemy can do us harm as we seek our elusive quiet time with God.
#1 – Guilt
We can probably all relate to this. We commit to spend 30 minutes each morning in devotion and prayer. It goes well for a few days, then we miss a day…then two…then… a week or two later our desire to draw closer to God has resulted in exactly the opposite. We feel like a failure, further from Jesus and exasperated by the difficulty of doing something that seems so simple.
That’s when the enemy helps stoke our guilt. “If you were a real Christian you would always have a quiet time.” “Maybe your faith is too weak to even try this.” “Maybe you should just give up.” Have you been there?
The cure for guilt is grace. Scripture tells us over and again that our God just wants to be with us. He is always listening, always present, always loving and always gracious. He is not keeping score or shaking his head in disgust when we miss our morning prayer time. He stands ready to free us from guilt and cover us in grace which is new every morning. He is faithful even when we are not.
Are you struggling under guilt regarding your quiet time? How can you continue to pursue a quiet time with God but avoid the discouragement when you fail?
#2 – Legalism
Leaders are achievers. We set goals, create plans and execute them effectively. We get things done and are motivated by accomplishments. So, it should be no surprise that we approach our quiet time with the same rigor. We choose a text or a devotional, make a prayer list and dive in. Soon we are clicking along, moving through scripture, checking off our prayer list items and polishing off our devotional readings.
Then one day we realize, in all that we are achieving, we are not growing deeper with Christ. As ironic as it sounds, we end up ‘doing’ our quiet time, instead of ‘being’ quiet. Just sitting quietly with God seems a waste of precious time. There is nothing to check off. No progress to record. Yet the deeper life with Christ starts with our being not our doing. It is listening, meditating on His word, praying and waiting for a response. Recalling Luke 10 and Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha, we can’t develop a Mary-like faith with a Martha-driven quiet time agenda.
Is your quiet time more doing than being, more talking and less listening? How can you fill your quiet time with more…quiet?
#3 – Compartmentalism
This third deception has been the most pernicious in the lives of the leaders I coach. It goes like this, “I give God my 30 minutes in the morning, but then I rely on myself the rest of the day.” This lament is part of the carnage from allowing a sacred/secular divide to seep onto our worldview. Somehow, even when we acknowledge that God is Lord of everything, we never see or consider him in the midst of our work day. I had one exasperated leader tell me, “I drive home at night and I realize I prayed in the morning during my quiet time, but never prayed again the entire day, and I needed him most during the day!”
Our quiet time is not meant to be ‘God’s time’ as divided off from the rest of our day. It is to be the first moments of a day spent in God’s presence, seeking His guidance throughout the day and journeying with Him in every moment. It is the start of our walk with Him through the day, not the end. Yet for so many of us, we pray and sing on our way to work, then shut off the engine and leave Jesus in the car as we head into work.
This is a provocative statement, but I want to challenge you with it; it would be better to skip your quiet time and walk closely with Jesus throughout your day, than to have your quiet time and leave Jesus behind.
So, let me ask, when you close your Bible and open your laptop, do you mentally shift from ‘God’s time’ to ‘your time’ or ‘work time’? What would it take for you to make every moment of your day ‘God’s time’?
Let me conclude with this challenge: stop thinking about having a ‘quiet time’ and start thinking about living every moment of every day as God’s time. As steward’s we know that every minute belongs to God. Some of it will be spent working, some in relationships, some in family time, some in personal care, some in play, some in sleep, and some in quiet reflection, devotion and prayer. Yet its all His! All of it is God’s time.
May you be freed from guilt, set aside legalism and shatter your compartment-mindset by walking with God every minute of every day. He’s there beside you, every morning, ready for the journey. Will you take it?