Dealing with a Worldly Environment

A Quiet Time With God

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.—Psalm 57:7

Richard Doctor

As darkness that could be felt closed in around the Western Roman Empire’s ruins in the fifth century, pious Christians sought out monastic cloisters. The dangers were real. Massive migrations of economically dispossessed peoples poured forth out of central Asia seeking new homes. Marauding bands of "Vandals," answerable to no one, left misery in their wake. Even sixteen centuries later their name echoes in the English tongue as a description for wanton, senseless, and reckless destruction.

Monasteries provided protection, sustenance, and spiritual solace. There the "elect," as they considered themselves, sought separation both from their nominal Christian brethren and from their uncertain world. Within was a life of order and meaning. The day with its honest work was punctuated by set periods to focus on worship and reflection. If the food was plain and the life was one of voluntary poverty and chastity, there was a sense of certainty that by God’s grace, Christ would triumph. Such was their prayer.

History Repeated

Sadly, these are not merely lessons of history. Today, we need to especially bear up in prayer our brethren living in lands beyond the frontiers of interest to the economic and political powers that dominate the world. For these dear brethren daily existence is eked out despite the meltdown of political and economic order. Marauding bands and gangs may appear in the middle of any night to pillage and murder, or worse. Every man’s sword is indeed against his brother (Ezekiel 38:21) and daily life is closer to fifth century Europe than to today’s Y2K-compliant European Union. Yet for those of us not in physical danger, the spiritual danger is no less real. Our adversary may not threaten our physical life, but he is determined to kill our spiritual life (Matthew 10:28). Despite God’s every provision for spiritual armor we may fail to put on Christ in our daily life. We need a quiet time with God to do this.

This thread of a set devotional life and a quiet time with God connects us to our brethren across the centuries. Our earliest thought should be: "What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?"(Psalm 116:12). One practical account of how this prayer can become a reality for us begins a world away from the fears of a society in anarchy with two young men at Cambridge University in 1882 who thought up the encouraging slogan: "Remember the morning watch." These students—Hooper and Thornton—found their days "loaded" with studies, lectures, games, and bull sessions. Enthusiasm and activity were the order of the day. These dedicated men soon discovered a flaw in their spiritual armor, a small crack that if not soon closed, would bring disaster. They sought an answer and came up with a scheme they called the morning watch, a plan to spend the first minutes of a new day alone with God, praying and reading the Bible.

The morning watch sealed the crack. It enshrined a truth so often obscured by the pressure of ceaseless activity that it needs daily rediscovery: To know God, it is necessary to spend consistent time with him. The idea caught fire. "A remarkable period of religious blessing" followed, and culminated in the departure of the "Cambridge Seven," a band of prominent athletes and men of wealth and education, for missionary service. They gave up everything to go out to China for Christ.

But these men found that getting out of bed in time for the morning watch was as difficult as it was vital. Thornton was determined to turn indolence into discipline. He invented an automatic foolproof cure for laziness. It was a contraption set up by his bed: "The vibration of an alarm clock set fishing tackle in motion, and the sheets, clipped to the line, moved swiftly into the air off the sleeper’s body." Thornton wanted to get up to meet his God!

The Quiet of Morning

The intimacy of communion with Christ must be recaptured in the morning quiet time. Call it what you want—the quiet time, personal devotions, the morning watch, or individual worship—these holy minutes at the start of each day explain the inner secret of Christianity. It’s the golden thread that ties every great heart for God together—rich and poor, businessmen and housewives. Every man who ever became somebody for God has this at the core of his priorities: time alone with God! David says in Psalm 57:7, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed." A fixed and established heart produces stability in life. Few in the Christian community have this heart and life. One of the missing links has been a workable plan on how to begin and maintain a morning watch.

How May We Start?

To get under way, a seven-minute commitment may be a good beginning. Perhaps you could call it a daily "Seven-Up." Five minutes may be too short, and ten minutes for some is a little too long at first.

Are you willing to take seven minutes every morning? Not five mornings out of seven, but seven days out of seven? Ask God to help you: "Lord, I want to meet you the first thing in the morning for at least seven minutes. Tomorrow when the alarm clock goes off at 6:15 a.m., I have an appointment with you."

Your prayer might be, "Morning by morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation" (Psalm 5:3). How do you spend these seven minutes? After getting out of bed and taking care of your personal needs, you will want to find a quiet place and there with your Bible enjoy the solitude of seven minutes with God.

Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. Find a quiet place away from the radio and television. Thank God for the good night of sleep and the opportunities of this new day. "Lord, cleanse my heart so I may feed on your word. Open my heart. Fill my heart. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Lord, surround me with your presence during this time. Amen."

Now take four minutes to read a portion of the Bible. You may hold your devotionals until breakfast. Your greatest need is to hear some word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the author! One of the gospels is a good place to begin reading. Start with the gospel of Mark. Read consecutively—verse after verse, chapter after chapter. Do not race, but avoid stopping to do a Bible study on some word, thought, or theological problem that presents itself. Read for the pure joy of reading and allow God to speak. Read perhaps just 20 verses, or maybe a complete chapter. When you have finished Mark, start the gospel of John. Soon you’ll want to read the entire New Testament. After God has spoken to you through his book, then speak to him—in prayer. You now have two and a half minutes left for fellowship with him in four areas of prayer that you can remember by the word ACTS.

Adoration. This is the purest kind of prayer because it’s all for God—there’s nothing in it for you. You don’t barge into the presence of royalty. You begin with the proper salutation. Worship him. Tell the Lord you love him. Reflect on his greatness, his power, his majesty, and sovereignty!

Confession follows. Having seen him you now want to be sure every sin is cleansed and forsaken. Confession comes from a root word meaning "to agree together with." Apply this to prayer. It means to agree with God. Something happened yesterday you called a slight exaggeration; God calls it a lie! You call it telling the truth about someone in the church; God calls it gossip. "If I regard iniquity in myheart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18).

Thanksgiving. Express your gratitude to God. Think of several specific things for which to give him thanks, "count your blessings, name them one-by-one," and even thank him for hardships. "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1Thessalonians 5:18).

Supplication. This means to "ask for, earnestly and humbly." This is the part of yourprayer life where you make your petitions known to him. Ask for others, then for yourself. Why not include other brethren around the world and the neighbors you are commanded to love? Why not the whole groaning creation? Let’s put these seven minutes together:

1 minute—Prayer for guidance (Psalm 143:8)

4 minutes—Reading the Bible (Psalm 119:18)

21 minutes—Prayer: Adoration (1 Chronicles 29:11); Confession (1 John 1:9); Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20); and Supplication (Matthew 7:7)

This is simply a guide. Soon you will discover that it is impossible to spend only seven minutes with the Lord. An amazing thing happens: seven minutes becomes 20, and it’s not long before you’re spending 30 precious minutes with him. Do not become devoted to the habit, but to the Savior. God has granted the priceless privilege of fellowship with him. Covenant with him now to guard, nourish, and maintain your morning watch of seven minutes. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much" Luke 16:10.