By Cheri Cowell
Christians everywhere agree on the benefits of setting aside time to be with the Lord. Our hearts yearn for alone time with our heavenly Father, but for many of us, even with our best intentions, setting aside that time on a consistent basis seems
difficult, if not impossible.
I struggle with prayer time. Although I’ve admired those who rise early, relishing their time with the Lord, I’m not a morning person. In fact, I’m certain if God has something important to tell me he’ll wait till after my second cup of coffee—sometime after 9:00 a.m. For years I’ve esteemed those who delight in the time they spend before dawn in their prayer closets or special armchairs where the Lord meets them for hours. But by the time I’m fully awake the day is already in high gear and I’m running just to keep up.
Eliminating the Obstacles
Nevertheless, if we look at time as the canvass upon which we paint our days, we can begin to see how layers of actions create the picture of our day.
So how do those of us who struggle to set aside time to meet with God practically implement a plan? The first step is to determine what is standing in your way. Is it personality, a time issue, a scheduling issue, or simply the lack of a plan?
Personality includes how we were created to relate to God. Some of us were created to sit quietly, while others were created to be on the move. If you are a personality that finds sitting still difficult, don’t despair. God still desires to meet with you, but you may need to get creative. Try prayer walking, combining a time of exercise with prayer. Or try combining prayer with some other activity such as gardening or driving to and from work. No one says quiet time must be spent on bended knee; it only requires a bended heart.
Finding the time is often the big obstacle, but it need not be. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we find time for those things we want to find time for. It may require giving up something or rearranging our schedules, but we can do it if we really want to. However, to do so some of us may need to look at time differently. If time is a set of boxes we fill with activities, then it is clear there is room for only so many activities in any given hour. On the other hand, if we look at time as the canvass upon which we paint our days, we can begin to see how layers of actions create the picture. Rarely do we perform a single act or use a single color at any given time, but rather we multitask with multiple layers of color. Put more practically, what activities on your schedule could double as times of prayer? Can you transform sitting in the carpool line, your lunch break, or cleaning house into sacred time? No one says prayer time has to be the only thing you are engaged in; it only has to be the single thing you are focused on.
Scheduling quiet time was my big obstacle because I had in mind a certain mold into which my natural bent did not fit. Since I’m not a morning person, I needed to look at my best time and figure out how I could give God my best time, my most alert time, and my most precious time. After all, doesn’t he deserve that? So, rather than David Letterman receiving my hours before bed, I changed my routine to include a dip in the hot tub and a shower to follow (who said the hot tub and shower can’t be a sacred place?).
Lack of a Plan
The most often sighted obstacle to establishing and maintaining a quiet time is the lack of a plan. So start by creating a personal plan to spend time regularly with God. Ask a friend to hold you accountable to the decision you’ve made. Perhaps your friend will join you in your quest and the two of you can check back with each other monthly to see what adjustments need to be made.
Following David’s Example
The next step is to carry out your plan. King David longed for God even as Saul sought to take David’s life. David found himself running and hiding in a network of caves surrounding the Dead Sea. But it was there, in the midst of life’s struggles, that David learned what it means to rest in God. No longer was it simply a desire or a goal. David was doing it. He rested in God and found that time to be sweeter than honey.
You and I can’t stop our lives. We can’t wait for a perfect time, nor should we. The perfect time is now, in the midst of life’s struggles. We need to find our cave, our hiding place. That cave or hiding place might be in the middle of a busy carpool line or in freeway traffic, but it can be a sacred space if our focus is on the God who shelters us beneath his wings.
We may find those first few times alone with God to be rather awkward. We may come with heavy burdens or layers of guilt and shame. This hidden obstacle is more real than many of us would like to admit. Like avoiding the person in the office with whom we’ve had difficulty, we avoid God thinking he’s disappointed or angry with us. What if we show up and he doesn’t? David must have had a lot of these same fears. This is the same David who committed adultery and attempted to cover up his sin by murdering an innocent man. He had reason to be ashamed. But David’s desire for reconciliation with his God drove him to overcome his fears and he discovered, just as we will, that God does not hold a grudge but a heart of love and forgiveness.
Another related fear is that we might show up with nothing to say. Some of us don’t know or can’t find the right words when it comes time to pray. David’s example reminds us of the importance of simply showing up—again and again. We might choose to read a devotional, a passage or two from the Bible, or try our hand at journaling to start our quiet time; but the most important thing we can do is talk to him, perhaps with only grunts and groans, and then we need to listen.
David wrote about his struggle with prayer in Psalm 32.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:3-7).
So if you are moaning and groaning through your day and feel your strength is being zapped, take this advice from David. Don’t stay silent. Confront the obstacles standing in the way of your quiet time with God, and then do it. Confess, share, cry, pour out your heart, or simply stand before him as one in need. There, in your hiding place, God will meet you and surround you with his presence and his peace. Then, like David, you’ll be on your way to becoming a man or woman after God’s own heart.
Cheri Lynn Cowell is a freelance writer in Oviedo, Florida.
This perpetual hurry of business and company ruins me in soul if not in body.
It’s no secret that being too busy is the biggest challenge in having a meaningful, deep spiritual life—especially when it comes to daily quiet time. Our world and even our churches tell us that our work and activities make us worthwhile. It’s not good not to being doing something, it seems. And there’s never a lack of things to do.
These articles from a variety of perspectives will help you rethink busyness.
“The ‘Busy’ Trap” by Tim Kreider
“What Multitasking Does to Our Brains” by Leo Widrich
“The Busyness Trap” by Thomas J. DeLong
“Church Busy-ness” by Shawn Lovejoy
“The Pride of Busyness” by Mason Slater