Prayer Requests and Learning How to Pray

7 Powerful Ways to Make Time for Quiet Prayer

  • Tricia Rhodes
7 Powerful Ways to Make Time for Quiet Prayer

The other day my husband asked me if I’d seen the toothpaste. He’d been looking all over for it, he told me. I glanced up to find that he was holding it in his left hand.

We had a good laugh. It seems to me that everyone I know has these kinds of experiences in increasing measure. Our minds are on overload, and the simplest things can undo us. Perpetually distracted, our souls are weighed down with an underlying angst fueled by technology and the explosive rate of change that has become our new normal.

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In His Presence You Will Find Rest

In His Presence You Will Find Rest

What is the answer? Do we have no choice but to settle for a life that is permeated with stress, anxiety, and an inability to focus or find rest amidst the throes of our busyness? The simple answer is no, for God’s promise to Moses—“My presence will go with you and I will give you rest”—still stands (Exodus 33:14). Jesus affirms this beautifully, inviting us to come to him with our weariness and overburdened lives, enticing us with his character and this profound promise, “I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, emphasis added).

As wonderful as this may sound, most of us still struggle to experience that rest, to find time to sit quietly in God’s presence, allowing Him to restore our souls. And even when we do, the cacophony of our chaotic lives bears down on us, often forcing us to throw in the towel out of frustration. If you relate to this, I want to offer you some hope with a few simple thoughts that might alter your outlook and lead you into that place of peace you long for.

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1. Quiet Prayer Starts Small

1. Quiet Prayer Starts Small

I read once that physical therapists who try to get people to walk after having had a stroke often tell them they only need to do it for one minute, and then if they feel like doing more, they can. Relieving the pressure increases their desire; soon they are adding a minute and then another minute.

The same holds true with our time with God. Don’t put it off until you have “enough time.” Plan to spend no more than five or ten minutes a day in quiet prayer. Over time you’ll find yourself wanting to add more, but for now, set an intention to enjoy just a few minutes with God daily.

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2. Simplify Your Expectations

2. Simplify Your Expectations

Don’t be too concerned about what you might accomplish in this time. Relieve yourself of expectations and rid yourself of every notion as to what makes a quiet time successful. You are here just to be with God. While it helps to have a simple plan, don’t ever let the plan drive you, or measure your progress by how well you implemented it. When it comes to spending time with God, success is simply showing up. He loves to take it from there. 

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3. Quiet Prayer Needs Consistency

3. Quiet Prayer Needs Consistency

Becoming comfortable with quiet prayer happens best when we engage in it at the same time, in the same place, with the same basic plan. This can seem hard at the outset, but because of the way our brains are wired, we need consistency to form any habit.

We can tend to look back at our prayer lives as a history of failures or near-misses, but we may have just given up too soon for time spent in prayer to become wired into our brains, making it an integral part of our makeup.

So, pick a time of day, plan your quiet spot and do whatever you can to get there on a regular basis—daily if possible—for the next thirty days.

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4. Still Your Mind

4. Still Your Mind

It can seem almost impossible to be still and stay focused. That’s largely because our digital devices have hijacked the neural pathways in our brains, producing minds in perpetual motion. But we have the power to take back control of our brains, and it is easier than we might think.

One simple way is to begin your quiet time with several deep, cleansing breaths, seeing yourself slowing your pace with each one (This kind of breath means to take air into your full diaphragm—not just your chest—seeing it rise and fall). As you breathe, focus on the reality that God is with you, that His presence is giving you rest. Here’s a pattern to follow:

  • Breathe in what He offers—grace, peace, kindness, goodness, faith, hope—or who He is—shepherd, father, friend, provider, living water, bread of life (the list is endless). Whisper these things gently, one word with each breath.
  • Breathe out cares, distractions, burdens, sins, guilt, shame—every negative thing—envisioning the Spirit, like a dove, carrying each one away. Soon you will feel a difference within and without, and over time find you are counteracting the negative effects of technology on your soul.

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5. Share the Journey

5. Share the Journey

God created us to grow in community. Having at least one other person to share our joys and struggles, our ups and downs, makes this process much more meaningful. Because the thought of accountability can feel like one more stress, choose someone who knows you and with whom you feel you can truly be yourself. Then commit to embark on this adventure together, checking in often—daily if possible--to see how it is going. Share what is helping and what isn’t, praying for each other at your point of need. 

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6. Salute Your Progress

6. Salute Your Progress

Our natural tendency is to obsess over our failures or focus on what we haven’t done right. Decide right now that you will not do this, but instead will be your own best cheerleader. Your brain loves it when you say, “well done,” and responds by working with you to deepen the habit. Every day that you manage to spend any time in quiet prayer with God, remind yourself as you finish, and then a couple times that day, of the progress you are making. Before you go to sleep, give God thanks, offering a breath prayer for grace to show up again the next day. 

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7. Savor Precious Moments

7. Savor Precious Moments

It is no small thing that the God of the Universe loves our company and wants to be present with us, to restore our souls and give us rest. In our humanness, we will struggle to believe this, to trust it and experience it. There will be good days and not so good days, times when we feel great about prayer and times when we feel like we’re stuck.

But there will be some special moments when God’s presence, like a soothing balm, becomes almost tangible, when He speaks gently, or washes over us with peace, or enlivens Scripture to our hearts, or stirs our souls with His love. These are the moments we want to savor—not only as they happen, but as we go our way through the day. Tasting the goodness of the Lord is a rare treasure and as we learn to cherish this, we will find our faith growing exponentially.

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Quiet Prayer Helps Us to Know the Peace of His Presence

Quiet Prayer Helps Us to Know the Peace of His Presence

I can’t think of a greater need each of us faces today than to know the peace of God’s presence, to experience the rest that can come only from Him. Though it may seem harder than ever to press into the discipline of prayer, it helps to remember that prayer is merely a means to an end. What is the end? To know Jesus, which, as he taught, is the essence of eternal life. Can you see him standing there with arms open, inviting you to come as you are—distracted, overburdened, weary, worn down by the strains of life in the twenty-first century? Whatever the condition of your soul, God longs to give it rest. Nothing in this world can be more rewarding than to experience the wonder of this gift.

Tricia McCary Rhodes is the author of several books, including The Wired Soul and Sacred Chaos. She and her husband founded New Hope Church in San Diego; she is currently an adjunct professor of practical theology at Fuller Seminary. You can find the link to her latest book here

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