You may hear people who read the Bible talk about “Quiet time,” “time with the Lord,” or “devotions.”
This time spent with God has many names, but it usually refers to the first waking hour of the morning, likely after the coffee pot has begun its brew, before you think about your schedule, or during your commute to work.
It’s time that someone has dedicated to read the Bible and pray.
I would like to save you from a dangerous idea about this “Bible time” before it ever entices you. It’s an idea that will sneak up and shackle you amidst all your good intentions.
I confess that my aim with this article is to chisel away false notions about this practice without damaging the wonderful work of faith of rising early and spending time in God’s Word.
Let’s first establish why this time is precious and to be preserved.
Then, we will honestly evaluate what is wrong about the pressure that surrounds this practice.
Finally, we will consider how to pursue God going forward and what the Bible actually says about when to read the Bible.
I am most concerned about your love for God and his Word. Therefore, I parse this practice of “spending time with the Lord” (or better said, investing time with the Lord) only in hopes that you do not fail to meet your God because you’re so concerned with meeting your God.
Why Read the Bible in the Morning?
“Morning Devotions” usually springs from a desire to acknowledge the Lord at the beginning of the day—a proper heart of worship. It’s also founded on a host of biblical principles. Here are a few of them:
- “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” (Proverbs 3:9 NIV). If we give to the Lord the first of our money, it seems reasonable to assume we would also want to give him the first of our time.
- “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV). With all the noise in life, God tells us to hush, stop the hustle, and take a long look at him.
- “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 ESV). Naturally, we clothe ourselves in the morning. It seems equally fitting at the same hour to go to the Word and arm ourselves with truth in defense against the lies and attacks of the enemy.
In other words, the war starts when you wake up; the offering begins with your first blinks, and a conscious pause to praise is a better first inclination than pursuing productivity. Amen.
Let no one discourage you from this.
Is Morning Bible Reading in the Bible?
In fact, if you skim the Old Testament, you’ll find this very practice—godly people seeking God early in the morning.
- Moses “rose up early” in the morning to meet God on Mount Sinai when God gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:4)
- Job, noted for his impeccable character, would “rise early” and pray for his family (Job 1:5).
- Hannah got up early with her husband to worship God while on their trip to Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:19).
- King David prays, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3 ESV).
- David also prayed, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8 ESV).
Flip through the New Testament, and you’ll find Jesus himself seeking God the Father in the morning. Mark’s Gospel tells us, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35 ESV).
Though the Bible does not instruct us explicitly to rise early in the morning to “meet” with God, it implicitly affirms the practice through godly examples.
What’s Wrong With Morning “Quiet Time”?
But, we’ve got a problem. The problem is that Christians often treat morning quiet time not as a joyful worship experience, inspired by biblical commands and rooted in relationship, but as a religious duty assumed to be a biblical mandate.
This incorrect perception of daily devotions actually leads to many dangers—thoughts like “oh no, I didn’t have my quiet time, is my day going to go alright?!”—as if our time in God’s Word earned us his favor.
What Does the Bible Say About When to Read the Bible
The Bible paints a much broader and more wonderful picture of “time with the Lord” than many of us realize.
Notice what God’s Word does not say. This is very important. God does not instruct us explicitly to read our Bible and pray every morning. He tells us something far better. See if you can discover it for yourself.
Here are some Old Testament instructions for how to read God’s Word and pray:
- God told Israel through Moses: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates”(Deuteronomy 11:18-20 NIV).
- God told Joshua: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Joshua 1:8 ESV).
- “Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV).
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).
- In Daniel’s story, we read how he “went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God” (Daniel 6:10 NLT)
And now for the New Testament:
- “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NIV).
- Paul instructs the Colossian church to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16 ESV).
- “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
What is explicitly said in Scripture? That “reading the Bible” is a lifelong, 24/7 adventure rooted in love and delight.
It involves singing, sometimes going to a solitary place, thinking hard about God’s truth, writing down his words, sharing his words with others, and talking about it all the time—with kids and adults!
Time with the Lord is all the time.
It is not just a timed appointment. It is a way of life. Those who live with the Lord will have his Word with them always.
Christianity differs in this way from all other religions—the Bible reveals to us a God who doesn’t want our religion; he wants our relationship.
God doesn’t want a ritualistic relationship; he wants a regular relationship with the constant communication that we would rightfully give to any loved one.
Why We Read the Bible
Reading the Bible has everything to do with our relationship with God and nothing to do with religiously creating rhythms around a book.
We love the Bible because we love the God who wrote it. The Bible isn’t an end in itself. It’s the means by which God has given us to know him.
First, because the Bible itself, as a book, does not impart life to us—its author does through his living and enduring words. Jesus said to the religious leaders of his time,
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39 ESV)
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV)
The words themselves do not give us life, as if our ritual of reading will sprinkle positive pixie dust on our day.
It is the person to whom the words belong—the God the Bible witnesses to—who gives us life.
In these very passages, Jesus says that life is knowing him, and he’s given us the Scriptures to bear witness about him. The goal of Bible reading is to know God, to know Jesus Christ.
And in knowing Jesus, we know the Father. For Jesus said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19 ESV). And the apostle John explains that even though no one has seen the Father, he has shown himself to us in Jesus Christ (1:18).
We read our Bible to know Jesus, and to know the Father. It’s about building a relationship—person to person.
How Do We Relate to God?
What have Jesus and Scripture revealed to us about who God is? The primary way Jesus refers to God is as Father. This is how we are to see God.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1 ESV)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15 ESV)
God is the Father of all who believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. “He [the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 NIV).
God, the Heavenly Father, loved you so much that although you rebelled against him, alienating yourself from his love and fellowship, he sought to restore your relationship with him at the cost of his perfect Son’s life.
God’s perfect Son died so that you, a rebellious son or daughter, could be welcomed into his house as an adopted child of God. God’s Son Jesus rose from the dead so that you could be forever absolved of your guilt and restored to God’s love and fellowship.
So how do fathers and sons relate? Fathers don’t make appointments with their children. Therapists do that. Fathers live with their children.
Sometimes, they have sit-down talks about the more weighty matters of life, like relationships and goals and commitments. Sometimes, they go on outings, or they enjoy an un-rushed meal together, or they just sit in the same room, working at a hobby or chores.
They even sometimes get up early and have coffee together.
So When Should I Read the Bible?
If you have a regular time of fellowship with your Heavenly Father in the morning, do not neglect it nor diminish it based on this article.
But add two things to it.
First, beware of seeing this as a work that earns your Father’s love for you. It does not. Jesus’ work in life and on the cross did that for you. He earned permanent, unhindered access into God’s favorable presence for you.
Second, take to heart Scripture’s holistic view of how we should seek God—everywhere and all the time.
Ask the Lord to prompt you throughout the day when you might do well to pay more attention to him and his Word.
If this is all new to you, then I want you to see that any time you spend reading the Bible, whether through singing, in community, when you talk about it, or in a “quiet time,” you are not to think of it as a work you have done, but are to understand it as a precious gift of time invested in your most intimate friend–your Heavenly Father.
You should seriously consider how you spend the key parts of your day—as you wake, on work breaks, while exercising, when in the car, before bed, and when hanging out with friends. Consider whether you walk with God in these minutes of the day, whether your habits reflect a deep love for drawing near to God.
In what areas of your life would you like to grow in knowing your Heavenly Father?
We need the Father to arm us at night, as well as day. We want him near to encourage at noon as well as morning. We need to trust in him at teatime and acknowledge him for each of our activities.
May God’s Word be with you at all times.