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November 6, 2016 8:15 PM   Subscribe

What do people do during Christian 'quiet time'?

So last year I decided to start doing 'quiet time' and I read through the Bible once and read through 'Savor' by Shauna Niequist. This year I am re-reading through the Bible and making notes.

I am not sure if I want to read it again after this year, and I am feeling a bit lost without a plan for what next? What are some good routines/projects I could do in about 15 minutes a day of quiet time?

Thank you! :)
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I think what a lot of people do during "quiet time" - or meditation or any kind of silent moment - is to just....think. Reflect. Literally not do anything.

Sometimes trying to come up with something to "do" during the silent pauses does more harm than good - it can distract you from the thoughts that come to you quietly. And those are the kinds of thoughts that can bring the most and best insight.

15 minutes a day to just think about your faith could be an idea. It sounds like you've been "feeding" yourself so far - maybe try to just digest it now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 PM on November 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm a person who likes a little structure. Praying for a regular list of people and situations is a good one.

A person told me once that if you read some text (even a long text) three times in a row each day, you're guaranteed to memorize it eventually, and that worked for me for awhile.

Like EC says, just sitting and thinking, being thankful, etc., is also well-spent time.
posted by michaelh at 9:00 PM on November 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

It sounds like there is a specific 'quiet time' concept you've been participating in that I haven't yet been exposed to. But I did grow up in Quaker environments, and Quaker meetings are definitely 'quiet time.' In Quaker meeting most people simply meditate, or if that's too strong a word, let your thoughts wander, make observations, and really sit and listen to what Quakers call the 'inner voice,' that is, the voice of the divine within each of us. Sometimes something happens, more often not, but this time of open listening is very important in the faith.
posted by Miko at 9:01 PM on November 6, 2016

the anglican daily office is useful for this: the C of E has an excellent website: where you can put in data
posted by PinkMoose at 9:05 PM on November 6, 2016

My father's parents had a daily Christian quiet time. They would either play guitar and sing quietly together on active feeling days, or work separately on small crafts or projects on quieter feeling days, just contemplating. It was a regular part of their lives, but never a forced one, which I think is important.
Both of them talked to me about what they were thinking about while they were doing the crafts when I was a kid. It's really stuck with me. I'm no longer a Christian, but I still sometimes do what they did. It's good for the body.

Grandma gardens and cans her produce, and works on large sewing projects. She says that she just considers the bounty that God offers her if she works at it, sowing seeds and weeding her garden. She thinks about that in the context of her soul, that God can provide a great spiritual bounty if she just puts the work into sowing personal seeds of faith* and weeding out the bad thoughts and impulses that could spoil her garden. I never asked her what she thinks about while sewing, but she also either sews quilts for our family or to donate to the church, so there's an element of using the time she spends to concentrate on her faith to help keep people warm that I know must be there.

Grandpa would put together models of tractors (he was a farmer), quietly play guitar to himself, and in his later years put together puzzles. On bad days he'd go and drive in the country, but that's not necessarily possible for you. His main thing was putting things together. He felt that putting things together reminded him that there is a plan for his life, and what he needs to do is find out where all the pieces fit and work best together. He said that the confusing parts of putting together a model reminded him that not everything always makes sense when it comes along, but that there's a reason at the end of the road.

These are two specific examples that include specific sorts of personal sermons, but I hope they can serve as a jumping off point for you with your own personal interests and needs in mind.

I agree that time simply spent sitting and thinking is time well spent. If you find difficulty with that, I would suggest finding a small craft that you can work a moral or lesson into the process of making. The more mindless, the better, and if it results in something that can create some amount of joy in the world, then your spiritual time can also do some physical good. I've always found my mind to be more open and honest with itself when there's a task that can be done without much thought.

*not televangelist seeds, to be clear
posted by neonrev at 9:08 PM on November 6, 2016 [24 favorites]

I struggle with this too. In my church, we have the same liturgy nearly every service (orthodox) and there are certain prayers and psalms to repeat frequently or daily, and once you know them by heart, your mind can fall into and around them. There are plenty of times my attention drifts but thankfully enough times that the repetition sinks in and the familiar unfolds again and again to draw me in. I highly recommend memorizing by heart and using - at set times and at times of need, longer passages and prayers or psalms. 15 minutes is about enough time to learn and repeat several beautiful psalms - Psalm 50/51 "Have mercy on me" is wonderful.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:05 PM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Franz Kafka
posted by dancestoblue at 2:15 AM on November 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

You could do some kind of daily devotional type thing. YouVersion the bible app has some. I'm sure there's others. They mostly make you read a bit of the bible (but usually just a few verses) and then have a bit of commentary for you to read and think about. Some will also suggest prayers that you could do.
posted by pianissimo at 4:12 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

You could color. There are religious coloring pages/books for direction if you want.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:05 AM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Silent meditation can sometimes be structured around a single short phrase or prayer. The idea is that you sit quiet and use the words only to draw you back when your mind gets too busy or distracted. Alternatively you could do a steady mental repetition of the words during the whole time of your prayer, if that makes it easier to focus. The Jesus prayer is popular, but people also use favourite lines from hymns or the Gospel ("Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief"; the Lord's Prayer, or one or two clauses of it; Maranatha). I've found it helpful to combine this practice with elements of mindfulness meditation from the Buddhist tradition, so that you do a bit of work focusing on your breathing and taking a step back from the stream of thoughts before turning the attention to prayer.
posted by Aravis76 at 5:12 AM on November 7, 2016

Something I have really enjoyed is reading through and meditating on the Psalms. I read a psalm then think about one aspect of it, maybe one verse, maybe one concept. I usually write down some notes because that helps me think. I try to consider the verse/concept from several different points of view then think about how to apply it to my life. Longer psalms get broken up over several days. I generally finish with a short time of prayer which may be about applying the verse/concept to my life and may be about whatever is burdening my heart and mind that day. This whole exercise takes me 20 minutes a day.
posted by eleslie at 6:42 AM on November 7, 2016

Great answers here. I'm a lifelong Christian, but struggle with "quiet time." Most people I know have a bible reading plan, a daily devotional book to work through, a regular prayer list, things like that. I tend to be a "enjoy life as you go along" type, and have little conversations with God in my head/heart throughout the day, even if it's just to say "thanks." That said, two of my favorite structured devotionals are Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon, and Amazing Grace, a year's worth of hymns with their full text, scripture references and history.
posted by jhope71 at 6:52 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I recently prayed a Novena for All Souls Day. I said the prayer and then spent some time meditating on loved ones who have passed away, especially my grandmother, who died this summer. Novenas are typically prayed for nine days, though there is a 54 day Rosary Novena. For some of them, you say the same prayer each day; for others there are different prayers each day. It can be really helpful for focusing your thoughts and meditating on a particular theme. Even if your version of Christianity doesn't pray novenas, you could select a particular prayer or group of prayers to make the focus of your quiet time.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:58 AM on November 7, 2016

I'm a really big fan of Father Thomas Keating-style Centering Prayer. It's similar to the types of sitting-and-listening prayers mentioned above. I do two 20-minute periods a day, but you could just do one 15-minute period. I started by reading Open Mind, Open Heart, pressing through some of the theory at the beginning that didn't make sense until I actually tried Centering Prayer, and got what I could out of it. I revisited the book as I started actually doing Centering Prayer, and I like to continue revisiting it every year or so (I'm due to read it again), as more and more of it makes sense/is applicable to me.

I could see this being a really nice year-long journey, especially if you take stock of where you are in your life at the beginning and at the end of the year, and see if you can notice progress over the long run. Both Father Keating and my former rector emphasize that it's not about one particular 15-minute session being "successful" or not, it's about whether you see positive changes in your life (especially increased activity of the Gifts of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control) as a result of doing this sort of prayer over the long term.

Another option would be to set up a non-Biblical reading list to take you through your quiet time for the year. I love CS Lewis, so I think a Year of Lewis would be awesome - just work your way through his works, starting with Mere Christianity if you haven't read it, and going from there. Other favorites of mine are The Great Divorce, The Four Loves, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, Reflections on the Psalms (which could work nicely with eleslie's suggestion above), Surprised by Joy, and The Pilgrim's Regress. If you run out of apologetics in a year (not likely), you could always move on to Narnia and the Space Trilogy, which also have Christian themes, or to his scholarly works (like Studies in Words), or to biographies about him (I think my former rector likes this one), or to his collected letters, or even to people who influenced him like Chesterton (so you could read Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man). (Obviously tailor it to whoever you like to read if you're not a fan of Lewis, but #Lewisfangirl4lyfe.)

Good luck!
posted by bananacabana at 10:19 AM on November 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

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