Some days I wake up feeling overwhelmed. There is so much to do, and I have a list of things that I need to get done today, all of which will take time and focus. How will I fit in my quiet time? Good news! Because the focus of our quiet time is the heart, it is possible to spend a short amount of time and have an effective, quiet time. But there are a few things worth considering.
Our quiet time is important because the Lord has called us to be holy as He is holy. It is worth taking time every day to take small steps toward holiness because it helps us achieve God’s purpose in our life. The more proactive we are to grow in holiness, the more opportunity we give the Lord to work in us.
An effective quiet time is not about the time
Since our quiet time is all about heart transformation, the time we spend isn’t the main focus. The main focus is how we are growing in holiness. Therefore, it is possible to spend 2 hours reading our Bible and not benefit from that time at all. But it is also possible to spend 1 minute and achieve what we need in our quiet time that day. The key is to bring our heart into the light so that our deeds can be exposed (John 3:20).
An effective quiet time is about the pattern
Before you ask how little time you can get away with, the bigger question is how any particular quiet time fits into a larger pattern of growth. If you have a regular quiet time where you spend 30-45 minutes and use it for a combination of prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and journaling, taking the opportunity on one day to have a short quiet time is not going to make a significant overall negative impact. Conversely, if you do set aside 3 minutes once every two weeks to do a quiet time, the value of that time is likely to be low over any period of time. An effective quiet time is about having a clear focus on personal holiness.
If you have determined that you need to grow in holiness, and if you’ve devoted yourself to create and maintain a habit that will bring about personal holiness, what happens in the day-to-day is less important than the general pattern of your life.
How to have an effective quiet time in a short time
The key to having an effective quiet time is not the amount of time. There are two things that will determine the quality of any quiet time, including short ones.
- Do you allow your heart to be examined by the word of God?
- Do you respond biblically to what you find in your heart?
The second question is the important one. But we can’t respond to what we don’t know about and what we don’t acknowledge. Therefore we need both questions together. We’ll consider each of these briefly
Do you allow your heart to be examined by the word of God?
To allow the word of God to examine our heart means that we consider what we read and look for signs of sin and weakness in our heart. We don’t do this merely to experience shame. Shame isn’t the point. The point of recognizing our sin and spiritual weaknesses is so that we can recognize our need of the grace of God – or rather we recognize the greatness of God’s grace in providing for our salvation. The more we see our need of grace, the more likely we are to recognize the kindness, mercy, sacrifice and grace that the Lord extends to us. Consequentially, the more clearly we see the fullness of God’s character, the more likely we will be to trust in the sovereign goodness he extends to us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7).
The three areas of knowledge are important here: We need to understand God and His plan, the seriousness of sin generally and our own sin specifically. I’ve written on these previously here.
Without recognizing our sin and dependency on the Lord, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). When we are self-deceived, we are unable to respond to our sin in the right manner.
Do you respond biblically to what you find in your heart?
The purpose of allowing the word of God to search us and reveal to us our sin is so that we can respond to it. If we see our sin and weakness but don’t respond biblically, not only will we not benefit from what we see in the word of God, but our response is likely to be unbiblical.
Unbiblical responses may include pride (because we don’t see any sin) or depression (because we do). Both these responses fail to respond biblically because they don’t take into account the holiness and justice of God on the one hand and the grace and mercy of God on the other.
Biblical responses include worship and praise for His mercy to us but must go much further. We need to recognize the grace of God in creation, in the provision of our daily needs, in His sustenance of life and the many blessings he gives, not to mention the hope laid up for us in heaven. All of this is part of the kindness of His grace. The kindness of His grace becomes richer and clearer to us in texture and depth as we come to see more clearly what He sees in us without Christ and in Christ.
How these questions make an effective quiet time
One of the key foundations of effective quiet times is the process of examining and laying bare our hearts before the Lord. As we regularly examine our hearts and respond biblically to what we find, not only will our quiet times become a transformative source of sanctification, but it will be easier to examine ourselves, even in a short amount of time.
Can I have a short and effective quiet time?
The simple answer is yes: it is possible to have a short and effective quiet time. But behind that yes is a series of questions about your regular pattern of growing in the Lord. If you have little time for the Lord and His purpose for you, then a short quiet time will be as ineffective as any non-quiet time will be in the larger picture. However, if you have developed a habit of exposing your heart to the Lord, you’ll find over time that you can do this effectively in a short amount of time. This will then give you flexibility in your schedule where necessary.
A quiet time is not a law or rule to keep but a tool to help me grow in holiness. This truth makes these times and their flexibility a source of great joy. I hope it is that way for you too!