We’ve been duped, friends. Well-intended mentors taught us how to do a quiet time or devotion. They held us accountable because they knew that regular time in the word and prayer would help us remain steadfast in our faith. Yet somewhere down the line we began to measure our whole Christian life, how we’re doing spiritually, by how many quiet times we had last week.
When we have this idea of what faithfulness should look like and our lives don’t measure up, we place ourselves in the camp of the struggling children of God. Something must be wrong with us if we can’t read our Bibles every day. So we begin to obsess over this one detail of our walk, losing sight of the big picture—our faith.
And not just faith in God for whatever we want. But faith in the Gospel and everything that comes with being in Christ. We lose sight of the things that do not change based on our performance each day. The things purchased by the blood of Christ, the riches of his grace—but that’s a different post.
The question we must ask ourselves is not whether we have a consistent quiet time every day but are we in some way meditating on his word, on the Gospel, every day? Are we depending on him every day through prayer? Are we actually living out of our faith in Christ every day? Does our position in him have any bearing on the activity of our day?
Those are the questions that get to the bottom of whether we are abiding in Jesus. Those are the questions that can help uncover why we may feel stuck spiritually.
If you were taught how to spend time in the word, even by me, you were merely given a tool to help you learn how meditate on the word and apply it to your life. The tool was designed to get you started. There are many ways to do this and you can change methods based on your season and preferences.
You may hear people say they feel different when they don’t get in the word each day, like they missed a meal. I have the same experience but we need to hear this the right way. We miss out when we don’t do what is outlined in scripture—meditating on the word day and night—but, again, it doesn’t have to look like the Ponder Method or any other method you’ve learned.
So let’s take a moment to reimagine our time with God in his word. I want to share a few different approaches—all of which can immensely bless your soul.
1. The Weekend Saturation Approach
I had a friend in college who had a completely different approach to her time in the word. She was out of school, working full time, and very involved in her church. I loved talking to her because she had a robust faith and could stand her ground in nearly any theological discussion. I'll never forget the day she recited the whole book of Galatians to me while we were discussing the prosperity gospel and my testimony. So what was her approach to getting in the word?
She read big chunks of the Bible at a time during the weekend, sometimes reading for a few hours a time. She and her husband both did this. It's probably important to note that they did not have children at the time. During the week, she focused on scripture memorization and review.
At the time, I couldn't fathom anything other than doing my daily quiet time as had been taught to me by The Navigators. Yet I could not deny that she had firm grasp of the word that nourished her soul on the regular. We often wonder how we can fit in scripture memory and other aspects of worship in our days and weeks. This is one option that works for those of us who are busy.
2. The One Sentence Approach
Before the start of the new year, I came across a Desiring God article that gave me a new approach to Bible reading for the year. I would continue through my one year Bible reading plan (since I'm no where near finished) and write one sentence of truth after each reading. This sentence would draw from the passages I read, either being a summary of something I learned, a Bible verse that stood out to me, or a connection to the Gospel.
The goal is to take something with you from your Bible reading that you can ponder throughout the day. This approach also requires you to think a bit more about what you're reading. I've been doing it for a few weeks now, recording my sentences in my Notes app on my phone. It's been harder to journal regularly and I love that this allows me to document what I'm learning in a concise, meaningful way. At the end of the year, I'll have roughly 365 sentences of truth from my time Bible reading. That's pretty amazing.
And just in case you think this sounds a lot like the quiet time many of us learned to do without the journaling, I should add that I usually do not complete my reading in one sitting. As an exhausted, pregnant mom of two under three, I often have to steal minutes here and there. I read during breakfast a little. I read during independent reading time in the morning. I read at the beginning of their nap, before I take my own! And if I still haven't finished, I read after they've gone to bed.
My sentence for today: Trembling is an appropriate response to God's word/command and his presence.
3. The Lingering Approach
A friend of mine recently shared that he spent most of the last year in Luke. He easily could spend a week pondering one passage or chapter. He enjoyed allowing his observations to simmer into prayers and deeper insight. I once read about a busy mom of littles who spent an entire year meditating on and memorizing Psalm 145.
I pray these examples free you up to spend time with God in prayer and in his word in a way that best suits both your season and your personality. But let’s not get it twisted. We cannot fool God. He knows what kind of time we have. He knows what we give our time to, what we prioritize, what’s truly important to us. And he may challenge you to spend more time with him each day than you’re currently willing to give.
Nevertheless, I want to be clear. When it comes to our time with God, the amount of time doesn’t determine your faithfulness. What’s more important is the way your time in the word shapes your faith and in turn your thinking and actions throughout the day.
We are free to choose the rhythms of our devotions. At the end of the day, we most keep our eyes on one thing—Christ, being stable and steadfast in our faith in Him. The rhythms we choose should help us to that end.