Introduction to Book:
“Prayer had always been a part of my childhood, from the little picture that hung on our bedroom wall of a child kneeling with the simple words “prayer changes things” to watching my father consistently get up early to pray. The moment I committed my life to God, prayer has remained at the forefront of my faith. I fully believe that prayer—a devotion to relationship, encounter, and conversation with God—is the root of all we do. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of Jesus and time spent with the Father that make us who we are. Directionless lives are given meaning in our relationship with God; this relationship is grown in community, through discipleship, and by establishing and developing our personal devotional lives.
One of the key ways I have sought to establish a rhythm of prayer that sustains me through the various seasons of life is through a quiet time. A quiet time is simply a daily time that I set aside to specifically tune into God through prayer, Bible reading, and reflection. It’s a time when I not only speak to God, but ask God to speak to me. It also gives me the opportunity to examine my life on a daily basis, to see if I am truly practicing my faith. It is the wellspring, oasis, and source of my life as a Christian.
For me this requires the first hour of my day, a chair, a Bible, a journal, and a strong cup of coffee; but, as we’ll see in this book, quiet time doesn’t have to look a certain way. At 24–7 Prayer, we have been helping create spaces for quiet times for years, and often not in the quietest of places! Ever since we started in 1999, we have encouraged people to set-up and pray in “prayer spaces” for 24 hours, 7 days a week, and these spaces are now taking place in church buildings, town halls, empty high street shops, on battleships, in breweries, in prisons, in schools, and in homes and palaces across two-thirds of the nations in the world. These tend to be creative spaces full of fairy lights and places to sit and write and respond, but they really only need one thing: to create an opportunity to spend time with God. These are creative spaces where prayer is more than just closing your eyes; they are places where you can paint, write, sing, and become involved with activities that help you engage with God; even though they look different all over the world, they are an intentional space to spend time with God.
The Bible tells us that Jesus actively sought out times and places to pray; he went to the desert, to the mountain, to the garden, to the temple. His prayer life had intentionality, and that intentionality was fueled by desire to spend time with his Father. The Bible also says “Be still and wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 37:7), which may be why the concept of a regular quiet time feels so foreign to some of us. Many of us aren’t particularly good at practicing stillness or patience—I get frustrated if a page loads slowly on my laptop! We live in a busy and very immediate culture, yet this verse calls us to be still and to wait patiently. It is not meant as an onerous obligation, but an invitation from God to enter a place of encounter with him. Some Franciscan monks once described Psalm 46:10 as the gateway to prayer, “Be still and know that I am God,” and yet, for me personally, I once felt like God said to me, “Brian, you are not very still, and you often try to be God!”
Maybe, like me, you need to re imagine quiet times as a gateway into a place of stillness, where we can know the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, eternal being that is God. This gateway isn’t static. I believe that we can live a life in which we know and feel God’s presence at any time and in any place.
In this transient age we need a portable faith. I want that sense of God’s presence, whether I’m at home, in the office, at the gym, out for a walk, with friends, at a party, in the pub—wherever I am. And I’m convinced that the discipline of a quiet time is key to making this happen. Over the years I have developed a devotional routine which means that every morning I spend time in the same chair, but I have learned that the devotion I have cultivated there, and the presence of God I’ve felt, must remain with me throughout the day, wherever I am. The quiet time strengthens my faith so that it is not shaken by geography, social media likes, relational tension, or any of life’s other variables.
I’m well aware that life isn’t always easy and we regularly experience challenges, big and small, but in the midst of that we can develop a deep spirituality that will mean we are not shaken, and we don’t become broken as we remain deeply connected to God. Every life is different and, as you read this book, one of the most liberating things you need to know is that everybody’s prayer life is unique too.
Our prayer lives will look different at different stages throughout our life. In these pages are just a few simple ideas, some questions to ask yourself, and points to reflect on. I hope they will help you in intentionally creating and developing your own quiet time: things that, over the last thirty or so years, I have found to be helpful. They are not intended to be exhaustive, so do check out the bibliography at the end for more extensive books that will help you go deeper in each of these subjects. They are not meant to be patronizing; whether you’re new to this or have been practicing quiet times for decades, I hope that this book will be a tool that will help you develop and grow your own quiet time, one that sustains you wherever you are and whatever you are going through.
Heasley, Brian. Be Still (p. 3-5). SPCK. Kindle Edition.