“I just don’t have time…”

That’s what everyone says, right?

I remember discussing this with my Christian counselor as a sleep deprived mom to three children under two years old. On top of that, I was working part-time at an office and trying to keep up with #allthethings demanded of me. I laugh at how I thought I was exhausted and had no time back in college. Friends, motherhood is a whole new ballgame.

I felt guilty.

Guilty for not spending thirty minutes or more reading God’s Word every day. Guilty for not managing my schedule well enough to provide times of rest and solace with God. Guilty for not having that designated Christian quiet time that well-intentioned church staff members told me I had to have to bring me into a deeper relationship with Jesus and nourish my soul.

It felt like this was the only way to “be a good Christian” and grow in my relationship with God.

And because I kept believing that (and not feeling able to find an hour-long window of quiet in the day to soak into the Word with Jesus and pray), I gave it up altogether. And I felt lonely, distant, soul-quenched. More exhausted than ever.

Through the nudging of my counselor, she talked to me about practicing the presence of God. You know, staying present in the small, incremental moments of the day and moving beyond a designated quiet time. Recognizing that I can still have an intimate relationship with Jesus without a designated time of quiet with candles and soft music playing in the background as the holy book sparkles in front of me (Hollywood Christianity, right?)

One day, I pushed aside this mentality and got creative with my God time. In the mornings now, while getting my kids breakfast (and scarfing down mine), I read a devotional book or flip open the Bible on my kitchen island. Most of the time I can only read a few lines until an interruption takes place. But I expect this. I attend to the need, then when another seemingly non-busy moment presents itself (when everyone is chewing) I read a few more lines. It doesn’t feel like much, but it’s interesting how I am able to continue thinking about what I just read, throughout the day. I intentionally make the effort to practice being present with God in my thoughts in the everyday fleeting moments.

I pray in the car on my way to work, even though it’s only 5 minutes away. Or I pray while I drop off my kids at school, even with their noisy chatter in the background. I even find myself praying in the bathroom (that’s allowed, right?)

I dwell on a verse or passage of Scripture that only takes thirty seconds to read. I keep reviewing it in my mind over and over for hours until I understand its deeper meaning. Something like, “taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” (Ps. 34:8) Even amidst great tragedy and sadness in this world (or the frustrations of a driver cutting me off), I look for hints of goodness in the day—a text from a friend checking in, a gorgeous sunrise, hot coffee, clean clothes (but never put away). When I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I say a quick prayer of peace and notice (often within minutes) how God meets me in that prayer as I take refuge in Him.

Surprisingly, even though I’m not spending gobs of time in the quiet, my intimacy with Jesus has expanded. I feel nearer to Him. I am drawn to Him. I find myself always talking to Him in my thoughts—mini-prayers and conversations going out to Him all throughout the day.

I didn’t think these interrupted moments of devotional or Scripture reading were working until I began noticing how much of the Bible I can recall without searching for my Bible.  

I didn’t think God would meet me in those scattered mini-prayer thoughts—so ineloquent—but now I sense and hear God speaking to me more and more in my heart. I’ve become more familiar with His voice—like one gets familiar with the sound of their mother’s voice in a sea of people.

I’ve concluded something powerful and perspective altering: “Christian quiet time” is less about time consumption and more about thoughtful intention.

Sure, designated times of stillness through prayer with longer periods of soaking into God’s Word are powerful and effective. This is a practice I keep and use regularly as well. But, to believe that this is the ONLY way to have a “quiet time” and grow in our relationship with God limits God and the depth of relationship we can have with Him in less drawn out ways.

I see this parallel in my relationship with my husband. While longer periods of time with him is wonderful and develops our love relationship (and is still necessary at times), our relationship is more often built upon those seemingly insignificant moments of brief interactions—a hug, a short text saying, “I love you,” a fifteen-minute discussion in the evening, and a positive mindset on each other when we aren’t even around each other. These are the things that cultivate our relationship and positively connects us amidst the busy of work, children, and external affairs.

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We must stop believing that our “quiet times” with God must be long, deeply entrenched times of studying of the Bible and praying for hours on end. We must start embracing that the principle element of building a relationship with God is through the small, seemingly insignificant nuggets of time we give Him in our day.

When you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, open your devotional app and read for a few minutes until you are called back.

When you’re waiting between classes, pop a favorite church podcast on or your favorite worship music artist.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, say a quick prayer right then and there to Jesus.

Push aside the guilt of not doing a formal quiet time, and instead practice the presence of God in the everyday moments. You can cultivate a vibrant relationship with Him without doing the traditional Christian quiet time everyone else pressures you to do. Don’t put God in the “Christian quiet time” box. He’s always present, always listening, and always available. He loves every moment with you no matter how fleeting that moment is.

Rachel C. Swanson is a dental hygienist turned author, speaker, and accredited life coach. Her writing is featured on multiple websites worldwide, reaching millions. She's been married ten years to her husband who loves her despite her love for coffee and often impulsive nature. They rear their tribe of identical twin boys and their baby girl and a Weimaraner (dog). They reside in a wannabe country town just outside the big city Los Angeles, CA.
  • Robin Chapman

    Yes, yes, yes. I’m so with you. And I LOVE the parallel to marriage- being in one that’s thriving in the midst of four small kids, I totally see this. We haven’t had a date night (/formal quiet time) in a long time, but we stay connected in little ways all the time. I read Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God for the first time earlier this year, and it changes how I feel about “quiet time.” (Basically, I don’t feel so guilty about NOT doing it the way the ’90s said I need to. Because trying to do “real” QT frequently ended with me snapping at my kids to “JUST BE QUIET! The more you talk, the longer this takes!!!” #betheexample)