As I am ruminating and writing about the "quiet time" I have been asked about my own experience. I thought it would be a good idea to share my personal struggle with the discipline. I, like many people, run into trouble here when I am not careful - which is more often than I would like to admit.
I tend to get into trouble in three ways. Muddled Motives This slide is usually subtle, but it completely alters my quiet time - and it is all a matter of perspective and motive.
When things are going well I have found that my quiet time is an exciting discipline. I wake in the morning and am eager to spend time with God alone: praying, sitting quietly and waiting, reading Scripture and meditating, journaling a bit. But as the days go by and the discipline continues dangers abound. Of course there is the danger of developing a form of spiritual pride at human accomplishment. "Man, I have been so consistent, so disciplined - I am the man!" There is the danger of evaluating your own, or another's, spiritual life by the habit of a quiet time - or even worse, your own particular form of private worship. "I can't believe he doesn't journal (or sing, or whatever you do that he doesn't). But for me, the danger that often emerges is a shift in motive. My motive to engage in the ritual becomes mere duty.
The difference is that I go from waking early to worship and meet with my God, to waking early to cross off a task on my to do list. It can become about keeping a personal commitment, or remaining consistent, over simply meeting with God. It becomes a discipline motivated by a sense of duty rather than a meeting with God motivated by love. In this scenario I am still having a quiet time, but it is more about the ritual itself than the end of the discipline. When this shift happens the discipline becomes stale, less enjoyable, more of a burden and eventually the wheels come off the whole thing.
Measuring the Quiet Time I also fail when I run short on time and buy into the lie that a quiet time is not worth having if I cannot have the full time I normally allot myself. I might allow myself to think, "Wow, I am short on time this morning, and -- minutes isn't really enough time to get alone with God, so I'll skip it." I even hear this from others who will admit that they feel that only, say, 10 minutes alone with God insults his worthiness and would bring little to no benefit to one's own soul. Of course this assumes a lot about God and self that is unwarranted by Scripture and has more to do with meeting man's standards than meeting with God. Here the problem is not skipping the discipline that day, but why it is skipped.
Finding a New Law Another way I fail is when I begin to feel that if I miss a day or two of my typical routine that I am somehow letting God down. As if God is displeased because I did not open my journal, or he is angry because I did not sit with open Bible in hand. I want to write a bit about false guilt later, so for now let me just say that this failure is again more about my expectations than God's.
So, while I believe the quiet time is important and beneficial this does not mean that I am always successful in this area. I am not.