“I just want you to talk to me about it. I want us to talk about what it will mean and how we will make it work. I want us to talk like we’re going to figure it out together. I want us to talk . . . because I like the sound of your voice.” —Danny to C.J. in The West Wing
Jennifer Huerta-Ball, Divisional Director of Greater Los Angeles in InterVarsity, used this clip from The West Wing in her final exhortation to us after a two-year battle with cancer.
This was Jen’s relationship with God. She talked to him, about everything and anything at any moment of the day. And this was the last word from one of the most influential and prophetic leaders InterVarsity has ever known: Just talk to Jesus . . . because he loves the sound of your voice.
When my husband and I were dating, what I looked forward to the most every day was the half-hour before bed when we would FaceTime each other. We would text all day and get in a phone call after work, but our FaceTime was when I had his undivided attention and we’d have our most intimate conversations. Once we were married, even though we were living under the same roof, we had to set a new rhythm for “FaceTime.” It didn’t just automatically happen. No matter how unpredictable our days may be, I still always look forward to that last half-hour before bed that is devoted to nobody but us, and we just talk.
This is what is meant by “quiet time.” There is no formula for doing it right. It is not something that makes you more holy if you do it every day, or another religious formality to add to your agenda. It’s that sacred space reserved just for you and God where you get to connect. It’s that time when you get to gaze upon your Creator and let him gaze upon you. It’s a space free of distraction and the noisiness of the day. The space where you remember you are loved simply for your presence.
Whether you’re new to discovering this sacred space, or you have grown up being taught that a good Christian should have a “daily quiet time,” it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do in these spaces. How do you find time that’s free of distraction? How do you connect to someone who feels invisible and not always easy to hear?
Here are some ideas to help you have more vibrant “FaceTimes” with God. Don’t feel the need to do everything on this list all at once, but pick one thing that looks intriguing to you and try it. Alternatively, pick one thing from each category to provide some structure to your time to get you started.
1. Reflect on what’s worked already.
Have there been ways you have already enjoyed connecting to God? Maybe things you used to do but a change in your schedule has made more challenging? Are there ways you can bring back some similar rhythms in new ways? Look for bright spots and build upon those.
2. Create the environment.
One of the keys to getting consistent “FaceTime” with God is finding a regular space and time so you’re not having to decide anything to make it happen and you can just show up. Decide when and where this will be and create an environment that will help you focus. Find a specific chair in the cleanest room in the house. Go on a walk. Light a candle. Buy an artistic journal that feels fun to write in. Play some instrumental worship music. Turn all technology off and leave it in a separate room. Set the mood that will help you remember that it’s just you and Jesus.
3. Engage the Scriptures.
The Bible is the most fundamental way that we focus our minds on the truths of God and remember who it is we are worshiping. Pick one way to engage the Scriptures and try it for a few months:
Pick a book of the Bible and manuscript study a chapter a day.
Get the Bible app on your phone. Listen to The Message version of the Gospels or Psalms on audio. Take a walk and imagine God speaking the Scriptures over you. Note things that stick out as you hear it read in everyday language.
Try the 3-minute Retreat app. Three minutes is not enough, but it’s a great place to start. Use this app when you first wake up or need a little breather.
One of the most powerful ways we can connect to God is by expressing how much we long for him. But this longing usually takes some time to discover. Here are some ways to increase desire and desperation for God:
Listen to or play a worship song that has a few simple lines on repeat. As you listen, let the desires of your heart arise. Some examples are “Wrap Me in Your Arms” or “All Who Are Thirsty”. I play the line, “Come, Lord Jesus, come” on my ukulele over and over again as I pray for the things I’m longing for in my own life and for others.
Use index cards thematically to write your prayer requests. I have a card for each of these major topics: self, family, friends, campus, city, world. And I jot down little notes on each index card with the things I’m longing for. As prayers get answered I put little check marks by them. (See A Praying Life by Paul Miller.) As I play “Come, Lord Jesus,” I look at the cards and remember my longings.
Imagine yourself to be a kid sitting in the lap of a parent and telling them everything you want, unfiltered, without caring about eloquence. Journal your desires to him.
Write a lament for the things you’re seeing in the news and the things that are breaking your heart. Lament the ways you’ve ignored Jesus or neglected to love him and others. Use the Psalms or Lamentations as examples.
5. Gaze upon God and his Character.
As you’re worshiping or reading the Scripture, spend some time “gazing” at the one who loves you. Reflect on who he is and adore him and thank him.
Play a song like “Great Is Your Mercy” on repeat and praise God for his mercy. Dance your praise before him.
Say or write down different attributes of God and meditate on his character.
Make a list of things you’re thankful for and imagine God there with you as you thank him.
Gaze upon artistic images of God or the Scriptures. I love the artist James He Qi. I will pick an image of his that sticks out to me and just gaze upon it for a while, letting God speak to me however he chooses.
6. Take in God’s love for you.
In a similar way, ask God to remind you of his love for you. Ask him to help you actually receive it on a gut level.
Journal a list of 30 things God wants to affirm in you (that may feel like a lot, but Scripture says God has more thoughts toward you than there is sand on a seashore [Psalm 139]).
7. Take the space to listen.
Conversing with someone goes two ways. God wants to tell you how he loves you. He wants to be your guide. But learning to listen takes practice. My dad used to tell me, “If you listen to God every day for the rest of your life and only hear him once, it’s worth it.” So don’t give up if you don’t hear anything right away! Here are some ways to practice listening:
Listening well begins with learning how to ask good questions. Pick a good question and sit still for a minute to listen for an answer. Try to avoid yes or no questions. Here are a few to start: God, how are you showing me love or beauty today? What are your thoughts toward me? What gift do you want to give me today?
Write the letter S in your journal for “Spirit” and write down every time you hear something you think was from God. (Check it with the Scripture—if it aligns with the truth of the Scripture, and the tone is loving, then it is probably from God. If you’re still not sure you can ask a trusted mentor.)
Take it a step further and begin to write a dialogue using the first initial of your name. For example:
S (Spirit): I am proud of you.
K (Kelly): I feel like I messed up that small group though . . .
S: Tell me what felt hard.
K: I didn’t do this right . . .
S: You are my child. Your worth isn’t in your performance. What do you think you learned from that experience?
8. Play and enjoy.
God just wants to spend time with you. Your space with him doesn’t always have to be serious. (It doesn’t have to be all talking either.) Have fun! Get creative! Be like a kid and enjoy creating with your Creator.
Paint something just for fun.
Cut out magazine scraps and make a collage.
Make something to decorate your home.
Enjoy nature; go on a hike.
Shoot some hoops or go on a jog.
Read a book and remember God is so creative.
9. Ask Jesus what to do.
Lastly, but most importantly, ask Jesus what to do. He will show you. We don’t always need a list of a million ideas. We just need to remember that we have access to the creative God of the universe. Take a moment and ask him if there’s something new you can try to make your times together more special. Maybe there’s one category on this list or one idea that is grabbing your attention. Ask God to keep giving you ideas of how to grow in that one area.
There is no formula to a great quiet time. There is no perfect list. What matters is that you’re taking the time to be intentional with the one who loves you the most. He just wants to talk to you. Because he loves the sound of your voice.
Kelly Aalseth is a Regional Coordinator for Leadership Development for InterVarsity in the Greater Los Angeles Region. She is the author of Keeper of Your Life: Actively Trusting Jesus Through Chronic Pain. She enjoys helping young people connect the dots between what God is doing in their inner lives and in mission. She graduated from UCLA in 2008 and now lives with her husband in Santa Ana.