I'm convinced that the one thing that will change everything about your life for the positive is establishing a daily quiet time with God.
Your health will improve if you exercise daily. Your finances will improve if you manage your budget daily. And in the same way, your soul will increase in health and maturity if you practice the discipline of spending time every single day—as early in your day as possible—alone and in quiet with God.
A friend recommended that I read the best-selling book on self-improvement from Hal Elrod called Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 am). It was a fantastic read, but the entire time I was reading it, I was thinking, This isn't new information—this is very, very old.
The fact is, I've been practicing the habit of a daily quiet time with God since I entered adulthood. There have been seasons when I've been less consistent than others, but when I've practiced this discipline faithfully, it's been the single most influential practice in building my life from the inside out.
I don't believe we should approach this discipline legalistically. It's not a matter of performing it in order to earn God's favor. Rather, we practice this spiritual discipline as a pathway to freedom, to growth and to new levels of spiritual maturity and closeness to God and confidence in our identity.
One of the reasons we struggle to start and maintain this practice is that we overcomplicate it. We make it a ritual, with rules attached about what we can and cannot do in order to call it a real quiet time.
I wanted to share the plan that I've followed for years now because I believe in it. I've seen it change my life in countless ways.
6 Elements of a Daily Quiet Time With God
You may have heard of the ACTS prayer, which stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. I incorporate this into my prayer time, but I break it up. And you might also have heard of the observe-interpret-apply method of reading and studying the Bible. I combine these two ideas and break my own time each morning into six basic elements...
I always open with adoration—with praising God, which reminds me of His greatness and His proper place of prominence in my life. My adoration centers around two main questions.
Who is God? What quality or attribute can I praise Him for today?
This first question has nothing to do with anything God has done for me, like providing financially or giving me health. It's not about me at all. It's entirely about Him. I'm reminded that He deserves praise and adoration simply because He is God, and He is good and worthy of my worship.
The second question is more personal and experiential: What has God done in, around and through me?
This part is simple but painful. I think about this question: What sin or fault in my life do I need to honestly confess to God?
And I try to be as specific with God as possible about it.
The meditation phase is where I stop and do some reading and studying and, more importantly, listening and processing.
I choose a passage of Scripture—sometimes a verse, sometimes a chapter, sometimes several chapters—and I start reading. While I'm reading, I try to answer these questions:
What does this passage say about God?
What does this passage say about me and my walk with God?
What do I need to change in order to walk in obedience to this passage?
I may also supplement this time with readings from other books, especially devotionals. A few of the devotionals I've used in the last few years include:
- Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
- New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
- Sparkling Gems from the Greek by Rick Renner
- Awake My Heart by J. Sidlow Baxter
And of course, I also subscribe to the daily emails (and I use the app) from Pastor Rick Warren's Daily Hope.
Thanksgiving is the essential antidote to negativity of any kind. This is where I simply answer,
What are some of the things I have to thank God for today?
Supplication is a fancy word for begging, or asking earnestly. One of the primary words for prayer in the Bible simply means asking. God delights in our willingness to express faith in him by asking him for things.
I answer two questions here:
What do I need to pray for in my life?
This may include God's provision of daily bread, of financial resources, of health or wisdom or confidence. It could include certain goals I'm trying to work toward or healing for pain points in my heart.
Whom do I need to pray for around me?
I keep a list of people that I pray for daily that includes my family, my church, my friends, my civic leaders and people with both spiritual and physical needs.
In this final phase of my quiet time, I take all that I've learned and heard from God and declare what is true.
The enemy constantly prowls around in our lives looking for ways to distract and discourage us. Truth from God is the ultimate weapon against these subtle attacks.
I believe we begin to live out what we verbally declare. I don't mean that in any kind of mystical sense. Rather, I believe that when I affirm a truth in my mind and with my mouth, my life begins to lean in that direction.
I keep a list of declarations that I say out loud every morning. I won't share them all, but here are a few:
I am a child of the King.
And He is worthy of worship!
He has created, saved, called and equipped me for his purposes.
I thrive freely under grace and stand firm on the truth of God's Word.
He gives me his promises of His presence, His protection, His provision and His power.
God's got this!
I am in control of my thoughts and feelings, and I choose joy.
I reject passivity and lead with bold confidence. I love and value people.
I am filled with God's Spirit and wearing God's armor:
—the belt of truth
—the breastplate of righteousness
—shoes of peace from the gospel
—the helmet of salvation
—the shield of faith
—the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God
I am ready for the fight. I can do hard things.
Nothing can stop me because God is for me!
I would strongly urge you to adopt this practice. It's life-changing! It sets the tone for your day and establishes the direction you'll lean in as you walk with God until you go to sleep at night.
I'm truly convinced that this one practice—a daily quiet time with God—is the single thing that changes everything! It's how we grow our relationship with God and cultivate a mind filled with peace, joy and assurance.
I recommend doing this as early in your day as possible. You'll have to decide when is best. It may be before anyone else wakes up. It may be after you've dropped kids off at school and headed back home to a quiet house. Just be sure to choose the time when your mind is sharpest and most of your day lies ahead.
Just to recap the plan:
- Adoration (praise God).
- Confession (confess sin).
- Meditation (read, study and listen).
- Thanksgiving (thank God for things).
- Supplication (ask and make requests).
- Declaration (declare divine truth).
You can do this! And you can start today!
Brandon Cox has been a pastor since he was 19 and has served churches large and small, including serving as a pastor at Saddleback Church. Currently, he is planting a purpose-driven church in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as editor of pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders, as well as a blog about men's issues, a blog about blogging and a blog about social media.
This article originally appeared at brandonacox.com.
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