I grew up in southern Illinois. Usually when I say Illinois, people who have never been there think of Chicago, but it would take me about five hours to drive to Chicago from where I lived in the middle of farm country. There was a lot of rain in the spring and fall as well as plenty of snow in the winter. However, in the summer, the air would get hot and humid with rain only coming occasionally.
I had a job one summer of keeping the Little League baseball diamond in good shape for the games. There were times in the middle of the summer that the diamond was so dry that every step you took on it would send a puff of dust squirting out from under your feet. It was so dry that spilled water would bead up on the ground, and it required time to soak in. For most of us, there are times when our devotional life feels a lot like that ball diamond—dry as dust.1 While there is no conceivable way I could address all of the possibilities of why we experience this, I would like to offer a few suggestions to help with times of dryness.
Appreciate the Quiet
First of all, not all times of arid quiet times are necessarily bad. Many of the classics of church history (e.g., St. John of the Cross) assure us that there are times that God allows us to go through these seasons. It is part of maturing as a Christian. We need to learn to walk through these times with the assurance that God is with us and loves us even when we cannot actively perceive His presence. Our faithfulness will result in spiritual growth.
Change a Habit
Second, the last time I went through a desert experience, I switched things up a bit by changing two things. I grabbed a daily prayer book and started using it.2 I was surprised about how routine my prayer life had become. I was pretty much praying the same things every day and had dropped times of thanksgiving and praise from my prayer time altogether. The daily prayer book helped me to refocus my prayer time and rejuvenated it. I also changed my Scripture readings from a systematic study to more of a lectio divina approach. I found that this helped bring the Scriptures back to life for me. I moved my study to times I reserved especially for that.
Honestly Examine Yourself
Third, ask yourself the following questions: Has your quiet time become one more chore to check off your list of things to do? Instead of a time where you meet with the God who desires to spend time with you, has it become more of a time where you hurriedly rush through your readings and prayers to get to work, or your next meeting, or whatever? Are you trying to do too much in your quiet times (e. g., I have to spend an hour and a half at this every day)? I can come up with quite a few more questions, but suffice it to say that honestly examining what is going on may be the key to a breakthrough.
I have two clarifying thoughts here. If you are constantly so busy that you rush through your devotional time, you are either too busy, or you are trying to cram too much into your daily devotions. The solutions to either of these problems should be obvious. Next, remind yourself that God is always present with you throughout your day. Your quiet time is not a “test of endurance” or a feat that has to be performed in order for God to accept you or love you. Quite the contrary. The God who created all you see around you takes delight in spending time with you. Take some of the pressure off yourself and allow for some unstructured time in the relationship, and remind yourself constantly that God is present with you all the time – not just while you are having your quiet time.
2 For those who want to know which one I grabbed, it was the first volume of The Celtic Book of Daily Prayer. There are many other devotional and prayer books that have helped Christians grow their devotional time.