I'm not a person of routine. And the whole idea of a routine in quiet time has always been a struggle. At the same time, nothing derails my daily quiet time faster than a lack of direction or a plan. So, I know that keeping a balance about quiet times is really important, and for me, preparation is key.
To know where I need to go in the future, it takes looking back to my past quiet times. What worked? What didn't? Is there a pattern in my previous quiet times or a theme that I would like to go deeper with? What is my desire in my walk with God? What do I think that He is telling me through these themes or patterns in my quiet times past? What schedule challenges or distractions do I need to overcome? Getting a few hours to analyze and plot a strategy for the next few months as well as to pray over the whole issue gives me a purpose and an intention that fuels my passion for the Lord and deepens my worship of Him.
And even if I have no answers to my questions, I still have to come up with some structure and see if it works. Sometimes, it does for a shorter time than I hoped, but at least I set out in some direction and learned something new about me and my walk despite the failure. A re-direct is not a bad thing. Having a back up plan is another strategy that helps me if I'm not sure about what I'm doing. But even the best strategies will fail if you lose sight of what you really need.
This year has been a great example of that. For instance:
A certain book I used called itself a devotional. The writers compiled a couple of really exceptional devotionals that I loved and I was excited about this one. It went through a female Bible character a week. It was fascinating, but I found myself thinking more about these women than growing closer to God. It is really a Bible study, not a devotional. I like it still but it isn't a good quiet time for me.
My plan B ended up being:
A journal that I picked up that has one short verse and a few paragraphs to help direct me to respond to God. Every week there is a theme, and this week is obedience to God. This has been more helpful, as I have Scripture to meditate on and some pages to write out prayers. But right now, I want to include something for Advent. So I will be supplementing once a week a reading from Luke's gospel.
But plan B is really plan C because:
I started out the year with another prayer journal that guided me through praying for an unreached people group per day. It helped me expand my world vision, and grow to have compassion like God does. I like it still, and I will finish it out this year, but it is only part of my walk with God, but doesn't meet my need to know God. I need more Scripture in my diet.
So, was my quiet time a bust this year? No, despite the twists and turns, I kept seeking something more that would bring me to an intimate relationship with God. When my plans failed, I kept trying. It is better than neglecting it altogether. And all this information will be considered when I make my quiet time plans for 2008.
Next year, I'm planning to work more hours and do more early morning shifts. So, I need to find a way to be consistent in my walk despite the inconsistent schedule. Last year, I "snacked" on Scripture until I had a chunk of time to meet with God during the day. The plan required I carry a Bible in my purse at all times. But it was easy to get distracted. My attention span seems to be as long as a six month old puppy's. Too much flexibility. I need more discipline.
This year, I had the time to meet consistently but had a hard time settling on how I wanted to intake the Scriptures in a meaningful way. The devotionals and prayer journals I had thought would give me some structure were disappointing and weren't helping me with what I longed for the most. It was like God was telling me that nothing takes the place of His Word, hello.
What are your special challenges? What do you need?