You would think that since I’m a writer and an avid reader, I would be comfortable with quiet but I’m not- at least not indoors. After a few minutes of no noise, I start to get antsy, anxious and I have to find something to make noise whether that be the television, Pandora, or a radio.
But on the outside? I can sit for hours and listen to the birds, the rustle of the breeze on the leaves, children playing in the background, just life happening around me.
Well, ok…in all honesty, I can’t “sit” for hours listening to this. I don’t actually sit still all that well, but I can walk, run or hike for hours! (smile)
I’m not really sure what the difference between the two is other than being inside and silent, I am suddenly very much aware of how alone I am. It’s not so much that I want to change that “alone” status, either, its just suddenly very, very apparent. I mean, my dog for all of her wonderful qualities is not a great conversationalist and at any given part of the day is most likely asleep on my couch.
For me, being alone – truly alone in silence – can be challenging. I start to think too much about things that I need to do or have done that I shouldn’t or how I’m not who I want to me or should be..yada yada. You get the idea. So when the idea of having “quiet time” with God started to be preached as the only way to have a true, honest relationship with God, I became more than a little concerned.
How was I going to be the woman of faith that I wanted to be if I can’t have music on in the background or be out where I can hear the birds and life all around me? Does quiet time have to be truly quiet? Does it count if I have music playing in the background? What about when I’m outside walking my dog and praying? Does that quiet time count even though there are all of the sounds of life all around me?
All of this may sound really silly to some of you, but I can honestly tell you that there have been many a “Christian” leader who have quite pointedly indicated that my way of spending time with God was not truly “quiet time” and I was most certainly not going to get me to where I wanted to be in my faith. Instead, I must not only have quiet time in prayer and study of His word, but that these times must be done at a specific time and in a very prescribed way.
Like many things in the realm of spirituality and faith, there are many who have decided that quiet time must be done in a specific fashion or it simply doesn’t count. There are some who will quote the passage from Matthew which indicates that when one prays, they should go into their closet, shut the door and pray in secret. Of course, the people who indicate this is the only way quiet time can be done correctly fail to recognize that this passage isn’t about making people go hide in their closet to pray. It’s really about condemning a practice of hypocritical and self-righteous people who prayed loudly in public so as to be seen praying so as to be able to lord that practice over others but had no basis of faith in their heart.
As we all know, virtually everything in the Bible can be taken out of context and made into a rule or condemnation of others. It is a way for those who so choose to make themselves feel superior to others.
The truth of the matter is the only thing that determine whether your quiet time with God is done “correctly” is to examine your heart when you’re doing it. Martin Luther was once asked how to pray by his barber when he was receiving a shave. Luther responded in the following fashion:
“A good barber must have his thoughts, mind and eyes concentrated upon the razor and the beard and not forget where he is in his stroke and shave. If he keeps talking or thinking of something else, he is likely to cut a man’s mouth or nose—or even his throat. So anything that is to be done well ought to occupy the whole man. … How much more must prayer possess the heart exclusively and completely if it is to be good prayer.”
Thankfully, we don’t have the need for scissors or razors when we pray or knowing me, I would have cut off several digits by now. I believe Luther was trying to tell this barber that what was important – and remains important for us today – isn’t a place, a routine, or a method but rather the intention of our actions. What is important is that I am choosing to focus on God not what it takes for me to get to that point of focus. I don’t have to sit in a dark room or repeat prayers by rote; I don’t have to have a completely silent room or have a completely still body.
Through the years, I have come to realize that quiet time is about calming all of the millions of thoughts that race through our heads on a moment by moment basis reminding us of the things we need to do, the things we have forgotten to do and the random shiny thing we just saw that caused us to turn around and forget where we were going.
After all, the purpose of the time with God is to bring each of us closer to Him; to learn more of Him and to be reminded even for a brief moment that this time with all of its rushing and distraction is not what our lives are about.God will always be there waiting regardless of how we come to Him. All we have to do is choose to seek Him out.