Quiet Time

9 Jun

June 9, 2013

I missed our weekly bible study this week due to a bad head cold. Our little bible study is so wonderful! Our mentor, Bonnie, was the instigator of the weekly gathering and we’re so grateful for her wisdom and leadership. There are five of us faithfuls and we welcome other young women and mothers to join us every Friday. It’s a time of encouragement, fellowship, examination and growing closer in our relationship with our savior, Jesus Christ. I invite you to be my guest and join us. E-mail me at lauck.liz@hotmail.com if you’re interested.

The last time I attended, I picked up a little “leaflet” out of a stack of materials Bonnie and our hostess, Jenna, set out to lend. The little booklet called “Quiet Time” jumped out and said, Pick me! Pick me! So, I took it home and there it sat on my desk. I would look at it with guilt and think, “I should really look through that.” But, then I’d get distracted and scurry to the next project.

Well, today I’m staying home sick from church so I thought, since I normally spend this hour worshiping God and learning his word, I should take the opportunity to read through it. Reading through the first few pages I was thinking, “This is great stuff! Just what I needed! I should take some notes…

Martin Luther’s Quiet Time by Walter Trobisch (1974) examines a letter Luther wrote to his barber in 1535. The barber had asked Luther how he prayed and Luther responded with a 40-page letter! Now that’s a man after my own heart; give ’em the details – ALL the details. Martin Luther set a wonderful example of compassion and counseling when he took the time to share how he seeks God’s guidance through prayer. Here are my thoughts as I read through the text.

Martin Luther recited, “He who thinks of many things thinks of nothing and accomplishes no good.” This really hit home for me. I even had this very conversation with Tyler last night. We talked about how scattered our thoughts can get between the news of current and political events, social media, community happenings, work, chores, family and friends, etc. It’s all so distracting and I yearn for simplicity and focus. Luther wrote that prayer must possess the heart exclusively and completely if it is to be a good prayer.

Martin Luther urges for prayer to be the “first business in the morning and the last in the evening.” Don’t let the devil convince us to wait or distract us with tasks. Pretty soon our day will be gone and prayer will be forgotten. He warns that we mustn’t get lazy and weary about prayer, because “the devil is neither sluggish nor lazy around us.” The author writes that prayer can become an empty duty and boredom is the deadly enemy of the Holy Spirit.

To guard us from turning prayer into just another menial task, Luther encourages us to “warm up” our hearts in preparation for Bible Study. If we warm up our hearts, we can use our Bible readings to kindle a fire in our hearts.

Luther warns us to not take on too much in prayer. “A good prayer need not be long or drawn out, but rather it should be frequent and ardent.” This is an important message for me. I’m the researcher, the list maker. I often won’t start a task until I have all my tasks organized and prioritized. I struggle to begin until I’ve gathered all the pertinent information. Therefore, this advice to let my prayer be frequent and ardent helps give me “permission” to go ahead and pray even if I don’t have my whole prayer list in front of me.

When praying, Martin Luther would go through the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. Not as empty recitations. He uses them as an outline for examination of God’s teaching, reflection of how we can and should apply the teaching, an opportunity to praise and thank God, a confession of how we have faltered in sin, and a prayer petition. We must really examine each line, each word. For example, as I read the Commandment I should ask myself; What do I learn by this commandment? What does it offer for which I am thankful? How have I failed to follow the teaching and for what should I ask forgiveness? For what should I pray related to the commandment?

I also love this message about not only speaking, but listening in prayer. “When such rich good thoughts come, one should let the other prayers go and give room to these thoughts, listen to them in silence and by no means suppress them. For here the Holy Spirit Himself is preaching and one word of His sermon is better than thousands of our own prayers. Therefore I have often learned more in one prayer than I could have obtained from such reading and thinking.” The author says we should expect God to talk to us in prayer. What an awesome promise! This should help remove the boredom from prayer. If I think about prayer as an opportunity to not only talk to my Heavenly Father, but also for him to directly counsel me, how could I ever want to skip a “session”?! We are amazingly blessed as Christians to know we have a Living God who is there to listen and to guide us in every single moment!

The author applies Martin Luther’s advice for prayer to our Bible Study as well. He urges Christians to enrich our quiet time by asking ourselves through each verse; 1) What am I grateful for (Thanksgiving), 2) What do I regret (Confession), 3) What should I ask for (Petition), and 4) What shall I do (Action). And he reminds us to heed Luther’s warning about taking too much on ourselves. Luther said it is “sufficient to grasp one part of a Bible verse or even half a part from which you can strike a spark in your heart.” We may be able to glean more out of one verse a day than reading 10 chapters a day if we approach prayer and Bible Study in this way. And the booklet claims this will make studying more like an adventure than a boring duty.

The author teaches us to apply the questions to the text first. What is in this text which makes me thankful? Corrects me? Challenges me to change and leads me to repentance? Which prayer concerns does the text – not my own wishes – offer me? What is in this text which causes me to take action? The author says the answers are often interlocked. What we repent may also be our main prayer for the day. What we are thankful for or regretful of may be what calls us to action.

After we apply the questions to the text, we should also apply the questions to our daily life. For example, today I am thankful for the people in my life – my husband, my family, my friends. I confess that I often think of myself before others and I ask forgiveness from God for my selfishness. I pray for these people and their specific concerns and pray that I may be made aware of how I can bring blessings into their lives for the Glory of God. This causes me to take action by reaching out to those I love in words and deeds.

By going through these steps in our prayers and studies, we receive concrete direction and guidance from God. The booklet says Martin Luther believed God would speak to him through his thoughts when the heart is warmed up and has come to itself in the atmosphere of God’s Word. “The Spirit will and must grant this and will go on teaching in your heart if it is conformed to God’s Word and freed from foreign concerns and thoughts.”

And Luther urges us to write down what we hear the Holy Spirit say to us. In prayer and study when thoughts come to our mind and preach to our heart, Luther says “then give Him the honor, let your preconceived ideas go, be quiet and listen to Him who can talk better than you; and note what He proclaims and write it down, so you will experience miracles…”

What an amazing, incredible outlook! The author says our daily devotionals become monotonous because we get in the routine of praying the “same kind of general, vague pious thoughts”. He says “our thoughts remain distant and abstract and do not come to grips with our concrete daily life.” By following Luther’s guidance and by writing them down, our prayers become “tangible, visible and concrete. It forces us to be precise, definite and particular. Monotony is replaced by variety and surprise.”

By taking notes, we can be more accountable to ourselves, too. We can look back and see if we accomplished what we set out to do that day. We can also share with others what God has said to us.

In closing, the author reminds us that it takes training and practice to discern our own ideas from God’s thoughts. But the more we do it, the better we’ll become and the greater blessings we’ll receive from our prayers and bible studies.

This reading is a big blessing for me. It is a great road map for better focus in my quiet time with God and I’m excited to start applying it to my daily routine. I hope it encourages you as well!

God Bless You & American Agriculture,
Liz

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12 (NIV)

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