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How To Have An Effective Quiet Time
by Art Farstad
"What a beautiful service!" is a comment you often hear after a fine public worship gathering. But we shouldn't be solely dependent for our spiritual nourishment on weekly or bi-weekly services at church. We need "Christian" vitamins every day! It is appalling how many believers don't follow the advice of the (true) chorus:
Pray every day,
And you'll grow, grow, grow!
The object of this little study is to share some practical pointers on how to improve the quality and attractiveness of your own personal devotions--your daily "Quiet Time."
The Persons:You and your Maker!
The Place:A quiet place, preferably away from all electronic sounds, including the telephone. If you can be outside in a garden, on a hillside, by water, on a mountain--at least sometimes--grab the opportunity! Remember, God started humanity outdoors--in a garden. If, like this writer, you enjoy background music while working, studying, or reading, make this the exception: God deserves your full attention.
The Time:Morning is best. Jesus met His Father "a long while before day light" (Mark 1:35). A morning "Quiet Time" will steel you for the stresses of the day. If you cannot possibly find time in the morning ("I'm not a morning person"), at least take a few spiritual vitamins, such as reading the day's devotional in Our Daily Bread from Radio Bible Class of Grand Rapids. (They're free.)
The Order of Service:1. A Hymn. Read (or sing, or play and sing, if you can!) a hymn a day. Go through a hymnal, song by song. (You may choose to do Christmas and Easter sections leading up to those days.)
Which hymnal? Use the one your own church uses to start with, unless it is one that has mostly songs that can't stand on their words alone (i.e., just catchy tunes with repeated lines and not much content).
It will take you a year or two to get through a hymnal.
Next, for enrichment, buy or borrow one from a different tradition than your own (but not so different as to be apostate or cultic, obviously!). I recommend, for example, the classic British hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern.
Keep in mind, however, that nearly every hymnal will need your doctrinal "filtering." Works for salvation can crop up in the most surprising places!
2. A Devotional Reading. Try a short devotional reading before you get into the Word itself (one based on the Bible, of course!). Some days your regular reading may be in a section of the Bible that isn't immediately applicable to your day--a genealogy, perhaps.
I recommend: Our Daily Bread (Radio Bible Class), Opened Treasures by Frances Ridley Havergal (Loizeaux Bros.), One Day at a Time by William McDonald (Everyday Publications, Toronto, Ontario), and Daily Walk (Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, Atlanta, GA).
3. The Word of God. Read your Bible reverently and prayerfully, expecting to find wisdom for that very day. The amount you read is not nearly so important as the meditative attention you give the text that you do read.
Is there a virtue to work on here? A vice to shun? A doctrine that bears study? An example to follow--or not to follow (plenty of rebels and sinners are written up in the OT especially!)?
Read the Bible before you pray, though a short opening prayer for guidance is wise. Let God speak first, then you answer in a simple heart-felt prayer.
4. Prayer. I recommend you keep a "prayer book"--a little book listing requests and answers, including notations regarding when you began to pray for something and when it was answered. This will encourage you to keep at it. Get a little alphabetized address book that you can slip in your pocket or purse. Put in your family, friends, yes, your enemies (if any), those in authority in church and state, and pressing needs--finances, health, and the salvation of others. Have a mix of your own needs and intercessions for others. You may find your prayers for others get answered before your own needs!
5. A Commentary. If you have time you can get some help on hard passages which come up in your daily Bible reading. Some one volume books are good. I recommend: The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Victor Books) and Believer's Bible Commentary by MacDonald (Thomas Nelson).* Both these sets have one volume per Testament.
Be part of a marvelous minority: Have truly biblical devotions every day!
As one who confessedly at one time let required Bible School studies sometimes "double" as daily "devotions," let me repeat the chorus with emphasis:
Pray every day,
And you'll grow, grow, grow!
*GES's, The Grace New Testament Commentary, a major three-volume commentary on the NT, promises to be excellent; but you'll have to wait to get one!
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