One time a friend wrote me a note, folded it up, and tucked it into my journal for me to find the next time I went in it. She knew I was feeling “stuck” in my devotional life. At the top of the page it read, “A Helpful (but Incomplete) Guide To Your Quiet Time.” It was a simple gesture - just a page torn out of a notebook with a couple thoughts written down - but I still look back on it even now.
Having a personal devotional life is important because we can always go further and deeper. We continually grow in our understanding of Jesus, not just by learning more or reading more verses, but also by constantly being recharged by God, knowing that He truly is our daily bread.
But all of us struggle with being consistent. We do well for a little while, but then we stop. My friend’s practical tips helped me with the sustainability and regularity of my quiet time.
One thing I know is that everyone has different preferences. Some people (like me) are morning people, and others (definitely not me) are night owls. Some people like white noise, and others need complete silence. So it’s important to find what works best for you and to create an environment that brings you joy. Because, after all, you should enjoy the one-on-one time you have with Jesus. Here are some more thoughts:
Find a time when you’re the most energized. I like to do my devotions in the morning before work when I’m feeling refreshed. I’ve found that it starts my day off well and dictates my thoughts, feelings, and actions throughout the day.
Find a place where you’re at peace. Solitude and privacy is important. I’ve found that if I’m not somewhere private, I don’t feel comfortable praying or really losing myself in my quiet time. I’m distracted and self-conscious. So I’ll usually sit at my desk after my roommate leaves for work and open the blinds so the sun comes in. Little things like that make a difference. It’s also good to change up routine. Go to a coffee shop or a park. I have friends who love the Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery.
I like to listen to music in the background and often make morning playlists (lately it’s included John Mark McMillan and All Sons & Daughters). Music helps settle me.
Good food makes a huge difference. In my friend’s note, she wrote, “Take something delicious with you.” For me, that’s coffee in a favorite mug (the mug really does matter). Maybe for others it’s breakfast or chocolate or a diet coke.
There have been times when I’ve journaled and read spiritual books but have left feeling empty because I didn’t fill up on God’s Word. It’s easy to get caught up in the outside voices and forget that our best way to hear God’s voice is through His actual words in the Bible. YouVersion is a great website with all kinds of Bible reading plans. Taking notes helps me remember what I’m reading, and it’s good to look back on my thoughts and feelings. And I think there are few things better in life than a good journal.
Overall, I think the most important thing is to find out what works for you. Once we get caught up on the rules and steps, we’ve lost the point. Devotional life is about getting in God’s presence and growing in Him through His Word and through prayer. It’s up to us to create a quiet time environment where we find joy.