The worst times in my life have all had one common denominator. They were those weeks and months when I stopped having quiet time with God.
What is a quiet time with God? The answer might depend on whom you ask. Let me give you a simple definition of a Quiet Time with God.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.Psalm 42:1-4 NIV
A Quiet Time with God occurs in the spiritual realm and is that moment when a person connects with God emotionally, mentally, and even physically just as we connect with a human being. When done correctly, it is a near-mystical experience. While it is not the same face to face relationship Moses had, there should be similar feelings of intimacy (Numbers 12:6-8).
When I first became a Christian, it took me weeks before I understood why we should have a Quiet Time with God in the morning. The idea behind the morning Quiet Time with God is that it sets our mind and heart to meet the events of the day spiritually, rather than in our flesh or through human effort.
Some argue the idea that we should have a Quiet Time with God in the morning. While they are correct that it is not a hard and fast rule, the preponderance of evidence lands on the side of a sunrise connection (Psalm 5:3, Psalm 30:5, Psalm 88:13, Psalm 90:14, Psalm 143:8). If these Scriptures are not sufficient, consider the oft-quoted example of Jesus:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.Mark 1:35 NIV
Jesus rose early in the morning to spend time with God. He did this in a solitary place, and this is when he made his connection with God. It was how he started his day of “walking with God.” Similarly, we should carry the presence of God with us throughout our day (Exodus 33:14-15).
This Quiet Time with God, morning meeting, and walking with God result in the deep relationship with God experienced by the psalmist in chapter 42. In this Psalm, the person in prayerful song laments a loss of connection with God. This lost connection is rooted in a spiritual and emotional disturbance that creates a painful disruption of their intimacy.
In short, Psalm 42 reflects the heart of someone whose devotion to and experience of his Quiet Time with God was falling short. For our sake, let’s say he had started missing them.
First, isn’t it encouraging to know the great men and women found in Scripture drifted from and abandoned God on occasion? But remember, Psalm 42 chronicles the psalmist expressing and deepening his thirst to meet with God, which is what we will attempt to do in this space.
Some questions to ask yourself as you reflect before diving in:
- What makes us miss our Quiet Time with God?
- What makes us wake up morning after morning attending to a collection of tasks and anxieties without giving God a thought?
- How do we cut out our time with God without feeling even a pang of guilt?
- Why do we have our eyes or heart engaged with something or someone else when we should be fully present for our few minutes with God?
- Where did we learn or come to think neglecting, forgetting, or being apathetic in our relationship with God wouldn’t eventually have profoundly negative effects on every area of our lives?
Defeating the obstacles to our quiet time with God
Today we need to answer these questions and then find the solutions we need to overcome and reclaim our passion for walking with God. There are 10 reasons we stop having our Quiet Time with God, and by defeating each of these obstacles, I am confident each one of us can develop a faithfulness to God greater than we have ever experienced.
You already have what you want
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.  Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down,  and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied,  then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.Deuteronomy 8:10-14 NIV
We do a lot of teaching about how to handle failure but very little about how to handle success. This is unfortunate since success is one of the most common reasons we stop having Quiet Time with God. The acid test of any relationship with God is how we treat God once we have what we want.
We don’t like asking for help
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,  if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.2 Chronicles 7:13-15 NIV
When I first began having Quiet Times with God, they were enjoyable because everything about the Bible and prayer was new. Having my Quiet Time with God was like doing homework, and I had always been good at doing my homework. Unfortunately, after about five years of being a Christian, I grew bored with the process and stopped having Quiet Times with God.
The reason I stopped having them was that I didn’t feel a need for God. I was performing the ritual without understanding the reason. It would take almost 18 months of spiritual failure for me to realize Quiet Times with God were about asking for help, not fulfilling a legalistic rule.
What I have learned through my life and conversations with others is that we as human beings don’t like being needy or asking for help. Nevertheless, as Christians we have to learn to seek God’s help; otherwise, we will stop having Quiet Times with God.
We only like thinking about ourselves
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.Psalm 10:4 NIV
One of the most common reasons for disinterest in God is our desire to think about ourselves over and above anyone else. The reason this psalmist has “no room for God” is because he is so full of himself. Until we break our obsession with self, we will always see God as interfering with our obsession over our favorite subject – ourselves.
We focus on people not God
This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.  They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.  “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.Jeremiah 17:5-8 NLT
Jeremiah 17:5 connects reliance on human strength with turning our hearts away from God. What I have seen in my life as well as many others is that when we become focused on the “power of people,” we turn our heart away from believing in the “power of God.”
If you see yourself drifting away from God and skipping Quiet Times, an important thing to check is whether you have become obsessed with a human being (their human strength, talent, charisma, etc). The moment we exalt people above God is when we have no more need to meet with him in the morning.
Our heart has grown hard
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’Hosea 10:12 NLT
My reading of Scripture and experience of life teach me that three things make our hearts hard. They are, in order of importance, shame, pain, and the emotional games we play with God when we pretend we have no sin.
I am certain you can think of other reasons why we harden our hearts. One thing is certain, if we ignore the hardness we will stop having Quiet Times with God. Anyone who wants to recover from abandoning their Quiet Times with God must search for and eliminate whatever is causing their heart to be hard.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. ‘ ”  Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai:  “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin? “Haggai 1:2-4 NIV
There are times in our lives when our relationship with God is neglected because we are busy doing important and good things. Sometimes we are too busy for God, which means we have a choice to make. Either we are going to eliminate something from our schedule and life, or willfully choose to ruin our relationship with God. Giving up on the Quiet Time is never about how much time we have but rather how we choose to use that time.
This kind of glory does not come from mortal men.  And I see that you do not possess the love of God.  I have pursued you, coming here in My Father’s name, and you have turned Me away. If someone else were to approach you with a different set of credentials, you would welcome him.  That’s why it is hard to see how true faith is even possible for you: you are consumed by the approval of other men, longing to look good in their eyes; and yet you disregard the approval of the one true God.John 5:41-44 Voice
A long time ago someone once told me we will each receive more of what we focus on. He told me that if we focus on problems, we will get more problems, but if we focus on solutions, we will get more solutions. I have learned this insight to be true in life and that it has application for our relationship with God.
We are going to spend more time with and grow closer to whomever we want to please most. If we abandon our Quiet Time with God, then we know we have chosen to please people more than we want to please God.
We love being unspiritual
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.Romans 8:5-8 NIV
I love desserts. You name the dessert, and I have likely eaten large quantities in one sitting. A bag of Chips Ahoy cookies, half a Chocolate Cake, an entire roll of Cookie Dough, or the entire container of Ice Cream. I capitalize these words out of respect for their power over me and confess honestly “I am an Addict” with a capital “A,” because I can dream of eating these things and more.
The Bible calls my affinity for and indulgence in sugar debauchery “fleshliness,” which means my life is controlled by what my physiology commands me to do. When we say “yes” to our physiology and “no” to the Spirit of God, then we are unspiritual and will have no interest in having a Quiet Time with God. Ultimately, we must fall out of love with our “flesh” to love being spiritual and start having a Quiet Time with God.
Lazy and undisciplined
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.Hebrews 6:9-12 NIV
What more need be said, but let me leave you with this quote I have memorized. It is from the controversial Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight and here goes without checking any reference, “Discipline is doing what you don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do it, to the best of your ability.”
More Quiet Times with God are skipped because of laziness and a lack of discipline than any other reason. This is a question of character, not motivation.
We haven’t decided to remain a Christian
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.Revelation 3:14-18 NIV
Years ago, I decided I wanted to get in shape. I was lucky enough to have a friend train me and a couple of others. My trainer friend was a former professional athlete, and I was the one who asked him if he would train me. He looked me in the eye and said, “I will train you Russ, but you have to bring your heart.” Naturally, I answered in the affirmative, but then he checked my commitment by repeating what he said, “You have to bring your heart.”
What we sometimes don’t admit is that we are missing Quiet Times with God because we are no longer giving God our heart. In fact, we have stopped having Quiet Times with God as our first step of moving away from God and his church. The only way we are going to start having Quiet Times with God again is if we decide to remain faithful to him and bring our heart to this spiritual fight of faith.
A final word.
I wish someone had put this list together for the 20-year-old me because there is painful loss and failure behind every one of these observations and experiences. I hope you will heed, benefit from, and share them with others so we can build a generation of believers who rely on God and change the world.