Making the most of your Quiet Times
Reading the Bible is one of the core disciplines of the Christian life. It allows us to hear God speak to us, grows us in our faith, and keeps us close to our Lord. We know it; we know it – and yet we all struggle at different times in our lives to sit down and make the time for Bible reading. It could be that we have young kids, and we’re physically exhausted, it could be that we’re going through difficult times spiritually, but most if not all of us, have at times found reading our Bibles difficult.
How then can we make the most of the time we have to sit down and read? Here are a few different strategies you might consider applying, linked to the resources that are out there.
Before we get to the list though, remember a couple of things:
- We’re all different – some of these things might work for you, some might just be frustrating
- Variation: if you’re someone who gets bored with regular routine – chop and change the material you use, the time of day you read etc.
METHOD A: Read the Bible
No better place to start really – and you can do this in a number of different ways. The benefits are that you spend time in the Bible (which is what we want), and get to know your Bible better over the long run. For some of us it might be tricky to read without any outside “help” (from a devotional), but practice will help!
Read the Bible in a year: Four chapters a day from Old and New, allows you to read through the OT once, and the NT twice. Good for those who want a big picture overview, and who have a good 20-30 minutes to set aside. The most famous of these plans is the M’Cheyne plan – which you can find here: http://www.mdbible.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/mcheyne_original.pdf
Read a Bible book: Read one chapter every day. Start with the shorter letters in the NT.
Some variations…Read the entire book. Start again, read through it slower, picking up on what you’ve missed. Once you’ve finished, start again – taking a verse or 2 at a time, thinking about it in terms of the book as a whole.
Read the Psalms: Read a psalm a day. Think through what it teaches you about God. Pray the Psalm to God.
Read and think through a passage: Some helpful advice here: https://onepassiononedevotion.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/tim-keller-on-bible-reading/
Phone App: The “Bible” app is a helpful tool for reading through the Bible. It contains Reading plans which take you through books or sections of the Bible, as well as plans which allow you to spend a bit more time in a particular book. [Note: There are other devotionals in the App…be discerning in your use of these. There are great ones, and not so great ones.] Find it here: www.bible.com
Method B: Daily Devotionals / Bible Studies
Thought for the day / short devotionals: My knowledge of these is limited as I haven’t ever really used them. There is a wide variety from a number of different sources. My advice: use with care. You can purchase paper copies – or download a number online. I suggest:
Solid Joys by John Piper: http://solidjoys.desiringgod.org/en
Grace to You by John MacArthur: https://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals
Take a look at CBD’s website: http://christianbooks.co.za/shop/product-category/devotionals/
You can also purchase books which have “thoughts of the day” from renowned Christian teachers of “yesteryear” such as J.C. Ryle; C.S. Lewis etc.
Medium size devotionals:
The Explore Bible reading notes are a great resource. Working their way through books of the Bible, or sections of books, they go a little more in-depth than a shorter devotional – and can take between 10 and 20 minutes (depending on how much you put into them!) They come as a 3-month study, and are on sale at church, or at CBD.
You can get the App for free (after which I think you buy the notes): https://www.thegoodbook.com/explore-app
I have two recommendations in this category – “the Good Book Guide” range (Galatians issue pictured left), and then the Matthias Media Bible study guides.
These are excellent – taking you carefully through themes or Bible books. They are generally divided into sessions, and you do between 4-9 sessions. Each session should take around 30-40 minutes. If that’s too long for you – you can divide the sessions up into shorter sections, up to you. They are very helpful if you want to dig into a theme or Bible book a bit more, giving some depth to your quiet time. Not so great if you don’t have a lot of time.
Both of these can be found at CBD here in PMB.
A commentary is basically a theologian’s interpretation of a Bible verse/passage/book. Some are extremely technical (and expensive!), while others provide wonderful devotional insights. Here are a few recommendations:
From previous generations: J.C. Ryle’s commentary on the gospels is “gold”. Read through the text, and then engage with his thoughts on the passage. Immensely practical.
Contemporary commentaries: One such devotional commentary I recently discovered was the “For you” series, being put out by the Good Book Company. Taking Bible books it has 2 sections per chapter – and has a helpful mix of explanation of text, and application. Different authors mean different style – but those I’ve read have been immensely helpful in my spiritual life. Including your Bible reading – a half a chapter (i.e. one section), should take you about 30 minutes – depending obviously how much you take in!
You can order them from www.christianbooks.co.za or visit CBD here in town.
A couple of thoughts / reminders
Group Study / 1-2-1 Reading:
The great thing about the Bible Study guides and commentaries is that you can read them in a group or with a friend. Do the studies at home, meet once a week or fortnight, and discuss what you’ve learnt, what you’ve enjoyed, what you’ve struggled with etc. This is a great way to get more out of them – as you’ll learn from your friend too!
“Speak O Lord, as we come to you”…pray before and after you read the Bible. Ask God to speak to you before you come to his word, and ask him to let it sink into your heart when you’re finished. Speak to him about the things that excited you, the things that bothered you, the things you learnt about him. Prayer and Bible reading need to go together.
There are obviously 1000’s of other resources and ideas out there. But if you’re struggling with how to approach your quiet times – I hope these have been of assistance.