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How to Have Quiet Time When Life Isn’t Quiet

An In Touch guide to better spiritual health

Sunita Theiss and In Touch Ministries staff September 18, 2023

When you think about quiet time, does the word “quiet” feel like a misnomer? Do you struggle with feeling as if you’re failing in your relationship with God? We understand. We’ve also felt ashamed of our dusty Bibles and non-existent prayer lives along the way.

lllustrations by Xoana Herrera

Life is hard. Maybe you live in a full, demanding, and even complicated household. Or maybe you work back-to-back shifts trying to make ends meet. Still, sometimes the problem is the noise inside of us—anxiety and grief, and worry (among other things) overwhelming our minds. Life is hard and, as it turns out, also very loud.

Regardless of the reason for our noisy, often overburdened lives, quiet time with the Lord is one of the first casualties when we’re at our busiest. And yet, it’s in these chaotic and frequently unquiet moments that we most urgently need to be with the Lord.

There’s no denying the helpfulness of silent moments with God—when we can get them. There’s a reason why the words “quiet time” have become shorthand for our discipleship efforts. Even so, our inability to have those moments doesn’t need to be a source of shame or frustration. It’s still possible to meet with the Lord anywhere, anytime.

We put together this guide to help you make the most of whatever circumstances you find yourself in. Our goal is not to equip you to have the “perfect” appointment with God but simply to help you have one.

What “Quiet Time” Looks Like

There’s no single correct way to connect with the Lord. In fact, we may as well let go of the name “quiet time” and replace it with something along the lines of “connection time,” since quietness is beyond our control.

What time with God looks like varies from person to person, and can even change with different seasons of life. But in general, private devotions usually consist of some mixture of prayer, Scripture reading, and worship. You may choose to use a devotional book, follow a reading plan, or revisit favorite passages and meditate. Some Christians journal or write down their prayers, while others pray out loud. Some kneel; others sit. There are truly many ways to spend time with the Lord.

It’s especially easy in an era of social media and influencers to compare our personal time with God to others’ photos of a Bible and coffee and wonder if we’re doing it right. Or even when friends, church leaders, or family members describe their morning devotion, we’re quick to ask ourselves, Does my quiet time measure up to theirs? But what other people do shouldn’t dictate what form your devotional time takes.

When we think about our walk with God, the idea of doing “enough” or doing it “right” can be a confusing, if not dangerous, path. Let us save you some time and heartache by telling the truth: No, your efforts will never be enough. Because “enough” was never the point.

He Knows Your Heart

Far more important than how much time you spend is the quality of your heart toward God. Five minutes of humbly, lovingly addressing your concerns to Him and receiving His love is more beneficial than five hours of performance-driven spiritual discipline.

Take comfort in knowing that the Lord isn’t counting minutes. If you desire more time in His Word, He knows. If you want to pray more, He knows. In Mark 12, Jesus was at the temple with the disciples. They watched many individuals put money into the treasury, including large sums from extremely wealthy people. Then, they observed a poor widow place two small coins in the treasury. Jesus tells the disciples that she gave more than the rich. (Mark 12:41-44)

In a time and place where widows had no ability to earn an income, she offered to God what little she had. In contrast, the wealthy had an abundance to give and—unlike the widow—did not give in a way that might have incapacitated them. A similar comparison could be drawn to our time. Do the many demands on your life allow only a small amount of margin each day? If you devote that “free time” to the Lord, He sees your heart and will honor your time deeply.

Even if it doesn’t feel like much to us, God cherishes what we bring to Him, because He delights in having a relationship with us. Do what you can. And when you’re able, do a little more. What we’re after is experiencing the level of connection that’s possible in our life, along with the hope of growing in our capacity over time.

Think about the relationships you have with family and dear friends. Closeness, trust, and love aren’t usually built with occasional grand gestures. Instead, we move toward one another in the small everyday rhythms of doing life together. It’s in establishing and counting on these rhythms that the world feels safe and known.

So it is with our heavenly Father. He doesn’t need us to have infrequent but long, uninterrupted times of prayer and worship. He just wants us to keep showing up with what we have to offer each day.

Get Creative with Your Time

If your life feels too busy to get quiet time in “all at once,” get creative. Explore how you can set up your activities in such a way that you encounter God throughout the day, and ask Him to help you make the most of those moments.

Think about the habits you feel are already consistent parts of your everyday rhythm. What makes them successful? Can you add a moment with the Lord to one of your existing routines?

Many experts on habit formation emphasize the value of practicing what’s called “habit stacking.” This involves identifying something you’re already doing consistently (such as brushing your teeth) and augmenting it by adding something you’re trying to do more consistently (such as reading Scripture or praying for a loved one).

As you’re starting out, try one of these:

  • Designate a place for your Bible, devotional, or journal next to your coffee maker or tea kettle. While your coffee or tea is brewing, take a few minutes to read and reflect.

  • If you’re trying to memorize a certain verse or want to pray for a specific person, write down the scripture or name and tape it to your mirror or the dashboard of your car. You can even add it to your phone background. Then, whenever you see your note, briefly read the verse or pray, and thank God for the opportunity.

  • Use alarms or reminders on your phone to pause for a brief “check-in” with God. One notification might prompt you to specify how God has blessed you that day, another to pray for a certain loved one or friend, a third to read Scripture, and still one more reminding you that He is using everything for His purposes.

  • Instead of putting on your favorite sitcom while folding laundry, watch a sermon from a trusted pastor. Instead of listening to a news podcast while driving to and from work, turn on an audio Bible or devotional podcast. If there’s a favorite show you like to watch with your children, take five minutes to do a family devotional before pressing play.

Try stacking one of your habits like this for 2 or 3 days. Then ask yourself what worked or what you want to change. Soon enough, you’ll be spending more time with God than you were before.

Keep It Simple and Be (Mostly) Consistent

Most of us wouldn’t step out of our homes and expect to run 26 miles on the first try. You would likely start with a mile or two, perhaps focusing on breathing or stretching. Eventually, with consistent practice and increased endurance, you would develop the ability to run greater and greater distances.

Like training for a long-distance race, giving the Lord what you have gets easier when you’re consistent. In Atomic Habits, James Clear says that “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” We don’t have to take drastic steps to meaningfully engage with God. But continued, consistent steps—even when we miss a day or two—will make a tangible impact on how we relate to Him.

When you occasionally miss, skip, neglect, or forget time with God, have grace for yourself. Don’t focus on the fact that you missed one day when your goal was 5 consecutive days. Instead, take a moment to marvel at the fact that you successfully completed 4 of the 5! The Lord’s grace and compassion are infinite, and His plan for us doesn’t include anxiety. He wants us to find rest in our time with Him.

As you build habits and move in and out of busy seasons, you may find that some things become less demanding or new challenges arise. You may see your quiet time change. Maybe you’ll have more time than before, or perhaps the previous 30-minute devotional time needs to be broken into two 15-minute blocks during the day.

Whatever the case may be, remain prayerful and flexible as your needs—and capacity to connect—evolve. The Lord is with you, and He longs to spend time with you every day‚ no matter what that looks like. Remember: Our time with God doesn’t have to be perfect; in fact, let’s take comfort in the fact that it usually won’t be. After all, as flawed beings, we can come to the Lord only in our imperfections. But He is ready to meet us where we are, with whatever we have to offer Him.

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