Journal. Bible. Devotional. Coffee. Sunrise. An hour to spare. All the pretty pens and highlighters. With the rise of social media and Christian influencers in the past few years what is commonly referred to as “quiet time” for the Christian has become just another pretty Instagram square and, for many Christians, anxiety-inducing. Why? Because we have taken what should be a simple time of study and prayer and turned it into a performance. If that resonates with you and you are looking to uncomplicate your quiet time and get back to the basics then read on.
1. Get Rid Of The Stuff
If your quiet time as become an overwhelming part of your day featuring a pile of books, journals, and more highlighters than you know what to do with then you might want to first start by only reaching for ONE thing when you go to study: your Bible.
The other tools are very helpful, but they are not needed and can sometimes distract us from our true study time. So, for a little while just give yourself the ease of simply reading the Word and nothing more. Find a comfy spot and just read as if it were any other book you might find yourself working through. As you start to notice themes or thoughts you wish to make note of then you can introduce those other elements when they seem appropriate. Your bible does not need to be covered in highlights or accompanied by journals full of notes in order to provide you wisdom and knowledge. God’s word and the Holy Spirit are sufficient enough to give you everything you need when studying the Bible.
2. Put Away The Timer
Life often requires us to relinquish control and let go of the idea that anything in our life will ever be perfect. But I, as most people are, am guilty of trying to make my quiet time perfect in every way. One of those ways being that I must do it at the same time each day for the same amount of time. I’m not sure who ever taught us that a quality time spent in the word is only marked by rising before the sun and studying for at least an hour, but they clearly never experienced the simple of joy of reading on their lunch break over a really yummy chicken salad sandwich – which is sometimes what I did in my 9-5 working days.
So, here’s the thing: you are not holier because you get your bible reading in before sunrise or if you spend more time reading than anyone else you know. We have to stop allowing ourselves to believe that the time of day and length of study has any sort of impact on how well we receive what God says in His Word.
You don’t need to time yourself and you don’t need to read at the same time every day. All you need to do is make it a priority. And, given that life is always changing, this may look different day-to-day. It might be at sunrise sometimes for half an hour. Or it might be 5 minutes before you fall asleep at night. It could an app on your phone at 3am while you nurse your baby or it could be on audio as you drive to work in the morning. The point is, stop putting so much pressure on it. We do not need to make it so complicated by time restraints and rules that seem to have come from nowhere.
3. Get Organized & Be Intentional
Once you’ve simplified and re-introduced study tools like notebooks and highlighters then you need to set up some sort of organized way to approach your study. There is no specific way to do this – it really depends on what works best for you.
For me, I color-code my highlights based on 6 different types of verse with an accompanying note: commands/instruction, God’s character, imagery, verses to pray, cross-references, and verses that hold special meaning to me – all designated by a different color. Maybe you prefer a process that involves circling or underlining words. Maybe you don’t like to make marks at all in your bible so you choose to have a binder or notebook for all of your references. The goal is to simply decide how you will approach these tools and how they will best serve you in your study. Be intentional about your study time and set up processes that make sense and actually aid you rather than distract you.
4. Ditch What Doesn’t Work
Is reading through the Bible in a year too much for you? Then stop doing it! Why do we recognize that children all learn in different ways and in varying paces but refuse to acknowledge the same about adults? If reading all 66 books in a year leaves you overwhelmed and not at all able to recall what you read by December, then ditch it and instead find a reading plan that works for you.
Are you reading countless devotionals every year and somehow still only finding yourself with surface-level biblical knowledge? If devotionals are not pushing you in to deeper study but are instead becoming your study, ditch them. As mentioned in step 1, you don’t really need them anyway.
Maybe you have tried to take diligent notes during sermons but you never ever go back to them and apply them to your study….then why are you taking notes? I’m a note taker myself but my husband doesn’t need it. He recalls sermons and references easily. But, I need notes. Lots and lots of notes. Partly because I like to apply them to my study and partly because I like to compare them to God’s Word and make sure that those sermons are sound in their teaching.
I could list dozens of other systems and approaches that may or may not work for you. But, the point is that if it ISN’T working for you and instead it is inhibiting your study, let them go. Your study time does not have to be Instagram worthy or full of complicated processes. Get in the word. Figure out what works for you. Be consistent. It’s truly as simple as that.