A couple of weeks ago, I had someone ask me, “How long should a quiet time be?” As I thought about it for a minute, I had multiple thoughts bouncing around in my head that honestly made it a little difficult to answer the question. Not because it was a difficult question, but because there were multiple relevant truths to consider—and because I think it’s altogether the wrong question to be asking. Since the question wasn’t the main purpose of the conversation I was having with this person, I responded with, “However long it takes to meaningfully meet with God.”
Later that night, I was sitting on my couch thinking about the question. I wanted to get to the heart of the topic—the central idea behind the question. This article is the culmination of those thoughts. My hope is that it provides you with some biblical truths and questions that help you reflect on your personal time in God’s Word in order to connect with Him more meaningfully moving forward.
Instead of the question, “How long should a quiet time be?” we should first ask, “What is the purpose of a quiet time?” Why? Because people might define “quiet time” differently. In short, a quiet time is a Christian’s dedicated rhythm to meet with God in a suitable environment. What makes it quiet is the environment—a space removed from possible distractions, but with the purpose of loving God and meeting with Him. Therefore, a quiet time is a means to an end, not an end itself.
This is important because if we make the form of a quiet time with overly rigid parameters the end goal, it's entirely possible for us to miss the person we are supposed to be meeting and loving.
Since a quiet time is about creating an environment to meet with and love God, in reality a “quiet time” should never actually be quiet. You are meeting with a person. During that time, someone is speaking—either God through His Word or you through prayer. And given the power of God’s Word and prayer, sometimes it will be a loud conversation. The question for each of us is— when I read the Word do I hear God’s voice? If not, perhaps our quiet time is too quiet.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV)
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12–13 ESV)
If a quiet time is meant to remove distractions, then it should lead us to hear God’s voice loudly. And even if you pray silently, in the quiet of your heart, God hears you loudly. So yes, your environment can be quiet but it should never be silent.
Given the authority of God’s Word and the power of His presence in our lives, our quiet time can start quietly but it shouldn’t end quietly. We should leave that time with His Word on our hearts and minds.
That’s how we can know we’ve actually met with God. Therefore, there isn’t necessarily a prescribed amount of time for how long your quiet time should be. You can have an incredibly meaningful time with a close friend in five minutes and in five hours. Sure, more time allows for more opportunity to meet with God and enjoy His presence. But let’s not make the mistake that “Unless I have ‘X’ number of minutes in the morning, a quiet time isn’t possible.”
The goal of quiet time is having faithful participation with the presence of the living God—the amount of time alone is not what achieves its purpose. Your participation with the presence of the living God does. So the answer to my friend’s question about how long a quiet time should be is not about a specific amount of time—it is about hearing a specific voice that stays with you after the quiet time.
Think of it like having an intentional conversation with a close friend over a meal. Most likely, you’d be able to summarize or even restate what you said and what they said soon after it ended. And if later that day the conversation stays with you, replaying over in your mind, then it had a real impact on you. The same should be true with a quiet time. Later in your afternoon and again that night, you want to be able to think back to earlier that day and remember what God said to you and what you prayed in response. The writer of Psalm 119:97 understands this well, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97 ESV).
In regards to our time in God’s Word, we want to experience this verse. A set amount of time can allow you to do this. Five minutes or 30 minutes or an hour can allow you to do this. A reading plan can allow you to do this. You can get halfway through your reading plan for that matter. If something God is saying through His Word captures you,stay with it, hold on to it, and recall it throughout the day.
A good quiet time (if you want to keep calling it that) does not mean you sit and read your Bible for the entire day and do nothing else. That’s not the Psalmist’s point here. What he is saying is that God’s Word is something he recalls and thinks back to throughout the day.
It’s important to know that before the printing press was invented in 1436 most Christians didn’t even have a Bible to read every day. This perspective matters because it reminds us that for the majority of Christian history, faithful men and women have met with and heard from God daily in ways that look different from our current “quiet time” time today. They had to hold on to the moments in which they heard or read God’s Word and take it with them as they moved on with their lives.
What a privilege it is for us to have the kind of access to God’s Word that we do today! This perspective does not mean that we shouldn’t have regular daily “quiet times” since they didn’t. It does not mean that we shouldn’t read our Bibles more because they couldn’t. What it does mean is that the outcome of any amount of time spent in the Word of God should be the same for all of Christians throughout history—to meet Him, love Him, enjoy His presence, and be transformed in the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.