Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Three Quiets

From the time I first became a Christian, I had people telling me about the important of a quiet time – a daily and regular time of study and prayer. The best time of day, most suggested, was the early morning, before the day began, before all the pressures of daily life crowded in.

Some suggested using a devotional guide, and some the Bible. Some said you have a short prayer first, then a study time, then a longer time of prayer. Others reversed the order. Some said you should have a cup of coffee, and others said you should wait until the quiet time was over before making the coffee. Some even suggested that you could mentally extend the quiet time until you were almost in a state of continual prayer throughout the day.

I’ve tried them all, and they all work. Or they don’t. What may matter less is the process, and what may matter more is the doing it.

In The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Life-Blood of the Christian, David McIntyre amplified this idea of a quiet time, to include more than just a regular hour. He describes three aspects of a quiet prayer time, and in a way I didn’t expect. I call them “the three quiets.”

First, he says, you need a quiet place, away from distractions. Even though the book was first published in 1891, McIntyre recognized all of the kinds of things that can distract from a quiet time – and how where you have a quiet time was of crucial importance. Some people might not be able to find one readily at hand, and he suggests some imaginative improvisation if that’s what’s needed.

Second is the one we’re most familiar with – a quiet hour, a regular time of the day when you can be alone in prayer. Actually, he suggests twice a day – morning and evening.

And third, McIntyre says, is a quiet heart – likely the most truly difficult to realize. He suggests what he calls three “simple facts of faith,” to keep one’s mind focused on God: recognize our acceptance by God because Jesus died on the cross; confess and receive the enabling grace of the spirit; and direct our hearts to Scripture, to read it “as in the presence of God” to calm our mind.

The quiet time and its associated quiet place and quiet heart are a practice, a kind of spiritual discipline. The best time for me is the early morning; the best place is usually a chair that’s not too comfortable. And often the best way for me to quiet my mind and heart (with a mind still trying to figure out why I’m not still in bed) is to read the beginning of the Gospel of John, a psalm, or I Peter. Yes, I know Peter was writing to Christians likely experiencing persecution, but I find his words very calming, like “a light shining in a dark place.”

Do you have a regular quiet time, and a regular place? And how do you quiet your heart?

Over at Informing the Reforming, Tim Challies is leading a discussion of The Hidden Life of Prayer. For a book that’s more than 100 years old, it seems delightfully on target. The language is 1890s English (perhaps with a Scottish accent), but it still appropriate for all of us in 2012.


SimplyDarlene said...

Where: in the living room sitting on a love seat, feet tucked under, hot brew, Bible, devotional or study book, journal, and pencil nearby.

When: early morning, preferably before daylight

How: still trying to figure that out.

Martha Jane Orlando said...

After spending a year writing daily devotions (now, only doing two per week), I found that I was having quiet time with God at all different times of the day. The discipline of reading scripture and writing daily truly kept me grounded in His word and presence.
Great post, Glynn!

Megan Willome said...

"I’ve tried them all, and they all work. Or they don’t."--I so get that. My quiet times go through cycles. Right now, I am finding that shorter times, both morning and evening, work better. I'm not in a season of in-depth study.

Anonymous said...

i don't have a regular quiet time. i don't have a regular place for quiet time. i don't quiet my heart.

S. Etole said...

I appreciated your shared thoughts.

Lori Heyd said...

My little shop has become my prayer closet...just slightly away from main activity in the house...I think maybe it helped to launch my blog. Great thoughts here. Lori

H. Gillham said...

We all need this -- but can I tell you that I love the stilling of the heart part ---

a quiet heart


Louise Gallagher said...

Ahhh. The quiet time. How lovely to spent time exploring those quiet places.

I do a four step process I learned in my meditation group -- breath. grounding into the earth, lifting up into 'spirit', breathing love out through my heart.

it is positively divine.

Floyd said...

I have my den/home office. I have to confess I study in depth on the weekends, the reading that I don't do enough of is in the kitchen in the morning before I open my computer.

Good post and convicting reminder. Thanks.

Followed Jason over, thanks to him as well.

Cris Ferreira said...

I learned the habit of the "quiet time" with my friends from the US. Here in Brazil most people don't have the habit of a quiet time like americans do. People usually have a time of prayer and a time of reading the Bible. Not necessarily the same time.
I usually do mine as soon as I wake up, before my breakfast, in the living room.
It is something that I am mostly grateful to the friends that suggested it to me.