Last year I had the best quiet time that I have ever had. How was yours? And perhaps the better question—one month into 2011—is, are you on track to do better this year?
Beat the Average
Let’s be blunt: simply being ‘resolved’ to do something—losing weight, volunteering more, getting out of debt, etc.—doesn’t cut it. That’s why some estimates say that the average New Year’s resolution lasts 3 days. Not months or weeks. Days. So when it comes to improving your quiet time, and working toward a deep, meaningful time of personal worship with God every day, how can you beat the average? Or if you’ve already succumbed to the average, how can you get back on track, starting today?
All I’m humbly offering here is how I beat the average last year. But I’ll warn you: I do not have 7 easy steps, a magic little prayer, or any other Christian antidote for you. If you prefer those, please give them a try and re-read this in 72 hours…
My Failures (and those wonderful cookies…)
Most would think I’m a pretty disciplined guy. I’m faithful to my wife, I take care of my kids, I come to work, I do my work, I go to church,… you get it. At all the big things, I have been doing a fairly good job.
What gets me is those little things, like saying ‘no’ to another warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie, or not snoozing my alarm. And although I call them ‘little’ things, they can have a big impact. At my age, an extra cookie here or handful of chips there began noticeably adding pounds. Snooze once, twice, three times and I was behind on my day; and often times it would become impossible to catch up. So there were practical ramifications to my lack of discipline.
There were also spiritual ramifications. I was guilty of letting myself control me. My appetite screamed one more cookie won’t hurt and I believed it. My desire to enjoy ten minutes of delight in the world between sleep and consciousness triumphed over the need to get up on time. I was guilty of being controlled by my flesh and the Lord was convicting me; enough was enough.
My (non) Formula
I put together a plan that had a practical and spiritual component. The practical portion resulted in many positive steps. I’ve lost some weight, I’m in better shape, and I hit the snooze only on Saturdays.
The spiritual portion seemed insignificantly small, but it has changed my life on so many fronts. I added to my daily prayer list “Doug’s personal discipline.” I desired to be disciplined in every area of life–the big areas and the little areas; in every aspect of life to be more self-controlled. Ultimately, I wanted to be led by the Spirit and not to be led by desires of my flesh.
Every time I now reach for the second (or third, fourth or fifth) whatever, I’m reminded of my prayer earlier in the day where I asked God for the power to say ‘no’ to self and to desires that lead to negative consequences. It’s not magic. I still fail. I’m still not the most disciplined person I know. But I can rejoice that I have been able to take monumental steps in many of those nagging little areas where previously my flesh controlled me. Thank God.
The Quiet Time Component
I promised this would be about quiet time. Here’s where that fits in.
When I first typed out the prayer request “Doug’s personal discipline,” I never had in mind my quiet time. I read my Bible and I prayed, daily. This was an area of my life I would have said is beyond reproach. I had it down, and things were going well.
But as I began to pray and meditate about discipline in my life, the Spirit of God began to press me in this area of quiet time. It was uncomfortable and I tried to ignore it. Was I as committed as I should be to praying fervently, faithfully, and frequently? Did I read the Scriptures widely, deeply, and intensely? Sadly, no.
I came to the conclusion that I needed to apply the same kind of daily discipline to my prayer life and Scripture reading that I was applying to my waistline and snooze button. I did, and it changed everything. No more excuses. No more “I’m too busy.” No more “I’ll read quickly.” No more “I’ll pray while I’m driving.” First things first, best things first, essential things first.
I know; it’s too simple: just pray for discipline. I get it. All I can say to you is as I contemplate one-twelfth of 2011 being gone, I’m on track for this to be the year of my best quiet time ever. I hope the same for you.