Avoiding the Quiet Time Rut
Time alone daily with one's Bible for prayer and reading is called a "quiet time." Such a description is fine in itself if it does not lead us into a rut month after month in what we do during that alone time. It is very easy, because of the mundane nature of daily life, to fall into our little ritual rut of doing the same thing in exactly the same way. Consistency is a very good thing IF there is life and freshness maintained. But often that becomes the problem. How do I keep my times with the Lord fresh and avoid the ruts of drudgery and just going through the motions?
One practice that I find most helpful is to creatively change what I do during that time alone. Usually, we will include several things in our devotional time daily--Bible reading, some kinds of prayer, and often reading some devotional book as an added stimulus for our hearts. I used to only read the Bible and would read the same amount daily, and then finish with prayer. But I've found that if I never vary what I do from day to day, it can easily become a rut because we are so prone to lifeless ritual.
Recently I made some changes in my habits devotionally that have brought some freshness. Besides periodically reading Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, I used to rarely ever read devotional books along with the reading of Scripture. I would read the Old Testament first, then Psalms, then the New Testament, as an unchanging pattern. But in recent months, I chose to make changes to bring freshness into my time. I added reading several excellent devotional books also to my time in the morning. This has stimulated my mind, as well as my heart. Before reading the Bible, I read William Jay's Mornings with Jesus, followed by John Piper's Taste and See, along with My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and Gleanings in Proverbs by Robert Jones. I then read Great Souls at Prayer, compiled by Mary Tileston, which Leonard Ravenhill gave me in 1984. I read these, not necessarily in any particular order, before reading the Scriptures. They are all brief, very devotional, and with real variety among the authors.
By the time I come then to read the Scriptures, my mind is stimulated with "elevated thoughts" about God and spiritual things. I am already quickened and ready to think about the most important reading--the Bible. Then I find the Bible reading is usually more profitable and alive.
My point is this--using creativity to change my routine at times is really helpful. It's like a change of scenery. When we travel to places we've not been to in a while, we enjoy the different scenery. Sometimes, when driving home from a trip, I will change my route and travel a different way, just for the change in scenery. And it actually makes the trip more enjoyable.
It's the same for the spiritual life. If you find yourself in a rut in your quiet time, remember that there is not only one way to have time alone with the Lord. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Use it. Vary your time every 2 weeks; read the Old Testament first and then the New, and next month begin with the New; read Oswald Chambers, and then the next month, read Martyn Lloyd-Jones Daily Readings or Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. Also, for one month, get a hymn book, and read/pray a good hymn during the time.
It is hard to imagine that the Holy Spirit, the very giver of life and spiritual life, leads any of us into a practice of dead ritual. If it becomes that way, its because of us, but not necessarily because of spiritual failure, but only because of lack of creativity in our regular methods. We must choose to add some spice and seasoning to our spiritual breakfast if we want to enjoy the feast. In the spiritual realm, as well as in the natural, variety can be the spice of life.
Our quiet time daily doesn't have to become a rut. This can be avoided. Don't let it. Use creativity in what and how you read, and pray for the Spirit of God to quicken to life whatever you are reading, whether its the Bible, a devotional book or a hymnbook.