I still remember my first experience with the Christian practice known as a "quiet time." I was twelve years old, had just made the cut to attend church camp with my youth group for the first time, and was having the time of my life there. I was rooming with two of my besties, and there was a pool and a cave and a soft-serve ice cream machine! The music moved me, and it seemed like the campus pastor was speaking directly to me every night. Each day after breakfast we were scheduled for half an hour of "quiet time." My youth pastor explained the concept this way: "Find a tree to sit under, read your Bible, pray, and listen." Ah-ha! This sounded like what I'd seen my mom do in the mornings--only she didn't sit under a tree. I found my tree, read a few chapters in Psalms, said some simple prayers, and sat there and stared at the lake. Nothing profound happened, but in a way I couldn't explain I knew God was there with me. That fit with what my youth pastor taught--that the purpose of a quiet time is to spend time with God, to build your relationship with Him.
My quiet times have evolved over the years as my relationship with God has grown, and I've discovered a variety of tools that help guide me and some that are just plain fun! As you think about your own relationship with God, whether you want to get back to the basics, dig deeper in your study of God's Word, grow in your prayer life, get creative in your time with God, get caught up in the story of the Bible, or infuse your faith with a little fun, I've got some product recommendations for you, all tested by yours truly.
Do you need special "tools" to build your relationship with God? No, you do not! You need Jesus in your heart and a Bible in your hand. These days you can even access the Bible online, and many Bible websites offer reading plans to help you approach this awesome--but intimidating--book in a way that makes sense for you. It's never been easier to obtain the information you need to get going! However, for me there's nothing like a physical book that I can mark up and make my own. Some of the Bibles and notebooks I've used over the years have become meaningful visual reminders of my personal history with God, and these build my faith! Plus, if you're an adult who annually laments that you don't get to pick out school supplies for yourself anymore, your spiritual life is a fabulous outlet in which to redirect this passion, speaking as one who knows.
Without further ado, here are my favorite fun tools for fresh quiet times, organized by aim:
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I want to get back to the basics.
Don't underestimate the power of simplicity in your relationship with God. Remember my youth pastor's advice to "read your Bible, pray, and listen." (You decide about the tree.) The first thing you need is a Bible, God's written Word to us. This ESV Bible is cute and compact, without a lot of extra frills, while this CSB She Reads Truth Bible contains some additional study materials and pretty typography. Both the English Standard Version (ESV) and Christian Standard Bible (CSB) balance accurate translation with readability.
If there's one other quiet time "essential," it's a place to jot things down--prayers, answers to prayer, what you're learning, verses that stand out to you, how you see God working in your life, etc. On occasion I've simply used the margins of my Bible for these notes, but other times I've needed more space; enter the cute journals! Any notebook will do, but here are a few I especially love.
And, of course, you need writing utensils. In case it hasn't already become abundantly clear, for me the more bright and colorful the better! I like a pen with a fine point, and the three brands shown here are my favorite. Note: These pens are suitable for most journals but will bleed through thin Bible pages. I use colored pencils to write and highlight in my Bible.
I want to dig deeper in my study of God's Word.
If you want to take your Bible study to the next level, check out these three fantastic reference books, which earned a spot on my "faves" list because of how easy they are to use.
The Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines is full of colorful charts and illustrations covering a variety of topics, such as the names of God, Old Testament feasts, the miracles of Jesus, and Paul's journeys. I love this resource because it helps me to put together big-picture info I might miss if I'm focused in on a smaller chunk of Scripture.
A concordance helps you to find specific words in the Bible, while a Bible dictionary defines those words in the original Hebrew or Greek language; these works are especially handy when taking a deep-dive into a specific topic. (Concordances and Bible dictionaries are also available online; the best web version I've found is at Blue Letter Bible. This site is a bit cumbersome, but its tutorial videos are helpful!)
Finally the Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook gives fantastic background and summary information for each book of the Bible, perfect for enhancing a book study. It also contains interesting photos and QR codes one can scan to access relevant video teaching via smartphone.
I want to grow in my prayer life.
Prayer is having a conversation with God, simple as that! I believe that the more we pray, the more God helps us to know what to pray for and how to pray. In other words you don't have to figure out the "right" way to do it before you dive in! (Do you worry about the "right" way to chat with your best friend on the phone? No! You just do it!) Jump in, fill your mind with God's Word, and listen, and God will guide you.
That being said, there are some tools that have helped me to take that first step, including these Sticky Prayers, which remind me that I don't need to be long-winded or fancy, and this tin of prayer cards, which each have a passage of Scripture or excerpt from The Book of Common Prayer on one side and lines to write your own prayers on the other side.
There's an abundance of books out there if you'd like to hone in on a specific prayer focus. I enjoyed Thirty One Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer, which presents readings and prayers to guide girl bosses and ambitious gals like myself. I also highly recommend Pray for the World, which suggests ways to pray for every country in the world! A new edition is released every few years to attempt to keep up with current events and, consequentially, prayer needs. This is a fantastic tool for those--like me!--who want to pray for the world but feel overwhelmed by the task and need a jump-start.
I want to get creative in my time with God.
In the past few years a new movement has begun that pairs Bible study and prayer with art! Those desiring to add creativity to their quiet times can dip their toe in the water through devotional coloring books or go down the rabbit hole with paints, stencils, washi tape, and all sorts of artsy mediums meant especially for Bible journaling. If you'd like to venture down the rabbit hole, your Wonderland is Illustrated Faith. (You're welcome.) I love looking at other peoples' intricate Bible art, but my eyes start to cross when I think about actually doing it myself. If you feel the same way, I think you'll appreciate these recommendations:
First, check out this drool-worthy coloring Bible. It's the New Living Translation (NLT), which attempts to express the original text's intent in the most accurate thought-for-thought modern English. It's in a one-year format, and sections of Scripture are arranged chronologically instead of by type of literature as in a regular Bible, allowing you to get a good sense of how everything fits together. It has wide, lined margins for note-taking, interrupted every few pages by a verse, word, or drawing to color. Next, take a look at this interactive journal. Each activity prompts you to take a look at a passage of Scripture and to engage with it by coloring a picture, journaling your thoughts, or doing some simple drawing (the only kind I do).
Don't forget the colored pencils, and easily take them on-the-go in a cute canvas pencil wrap, available in many adorable designs.
I want to get caught up in the story of the Bible.
We tend to read our Bibles one chapter at a time, but the first Christians read large portions of Scripture at once, in part because chapter and verse divisions were added much later! It's a good idea for us to do the same--to remember that the Bible is one big, amazing story and to read it as such. Perhaps the most accessible Bible translation for doing so is The Message; it converts the original languages into contemporary speech thought-for-thought. It draws the reader in and makes them want to keep reading! Perhaps my next suggestion is unconventional, as I'm pretty confident its target audience is twelve year-old boys. Nevertheless, I must admit that I, a thirty year-old woman, have recently enjoyed reading The Action Bible, a 700+ page full-color comic book Bible. If you'd like a quick and interesting tour through the Bible, I dare you to grab a copy...Then give it to the twelve year-old boy in your life!
I want to infuse my faith with a little fun.
Sometimes you just need to shake up your routine with a little whimsy and fun! Use this stamp in your Bible to date special verses along with notations like "prayed" or "wow God." Then when you flip back through the pages of your Bible, you can easily locate passages you wanted to remember. These stickers can be used in your journal, planner, or wherever you'd like, and they include snippets of verses, messages we all need like "bless this hot mess" (Ha!), and short lists for prayer requests and to-do's.
There's just something delightful about having all your tools together in one curated "kit"--perhaps this hearkens back to those school days when my heart rejoiced at a cute and well-ordered trapper keeper. I keep all of my quiet time tools in this pink Craftsman tool tote. It's very heavy-duty, and it has lots of compartments for organizing all of my things. Similar sturdy fabric bags and plastic totes are available where craft supplies are sold.
Whether or not you found a new tool you'd like to pick up to integrate into your quiet times this year, I hope your imagination was sparked with some ways to freshen up your quiet time routine, and I hope you're excited to spend time with God. May your time with Him be fresh, intimate, and fruitful!
What are your favorite quiet time tools? Are you implementing anything new this year? Tell me about it!