Don’t Let Unrealistic Expectations Ruin Your Quiet Time

For the past two years I enjoyed the silence of my apartment for an hour before work. I used this time to pray and read my Bible and meet with God. But over the last few months that’s changed. Work requires more morning commitments, a new dog requires morning walks and feedings, and a new house offers new distractions. All of these (admittedly minor) changes left me frustrated. Without my special time and silent place my relationship with God was dissolving. I couldn’t possibly connect with him as I did before. Or so I believed.

My problem isn’t that I dislike change. My problem is unrealistic expectations. I am imagining that I live in an ideal world where every prayer can happen on a mountain top or at a fireside. That each silent moment should be filled with electric passion for God. But I don’t live in an ideal world, and my idealistic expectations are an idol that I use an excuse to ignore time with God. Here’s a few more unrealistic expectations that we all need to avoid lest the ruin our quiet times…

1. Expecting undistracted silence. Susanna Wesley, as a stay at home mom, couldn’t avoid the sound and craziness of children at all times, so she’d find “quiet time” by flipping her apron over her head and praying in the midst of it.* I don’t wear aprons, so I haven’t tried it out, but her example is helpful. It’s rare in a world of iPhones, family responsibilities, and long commutes to find perfect silence. But let’s make the best of what we have and try and carve out time for God, whether it’s on the road, in the parking lot, or as the children play outside.

2. Expecting hours instead of minutes. If you’re new to doing quiet times, don’t be disappointed with a short quiet time. Start small, at 10 or 15 minutes, with the hope of expanding the time. What matters most is consistency. Try to find a daily time with God. Develop a habit. If you’re used to long quiet times, but circumstances have cut them short, don’t despair or quit, instead ask God to help you make most of the time you have.

3. Expecting divine intervention. A few of us wonder why we don’t hear the audible word of God. Many of us wonder why don’t feel or experience something electric in our quiet times. In both cases we’ve misunderstood how God’s word works in our lives. It’s like eating.

You probably don’t remember every meal you ate last week, if any from last year. Yet, if you didn’t eat them you’d be starved or dead. We may not always have amazing experiences in the word (though there are those especially memorable meals) but what matters most is that we feed regularly. By a slow process that word becomes part of us, changes us, and satisfies us. I know it sounds boring and normal, but isn’t that a relief? God isn’t calling us to conquer a mountain, he’s inviting us to read his book.

4. Expecting discipline without work. It’s easy to lay in bed and think, “I’ll wake up at 6 and read and pray!” It’s not so easy to wake up. Sometimes we’re disappointed that discipline doesn’t just happen to us. That’s why we need to expect it to be hard, fleeting, and frustrating, but (like all work) rewarding.

*This illustration comes from Jean Fleming’s book Feeding Your Soul. It’s a great resource for understanding/developing a personal time with God.

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