People who love each other are intentional about spending meaningful time together. To do this, discipline and love must work together. Finding time requires deliberate planning.

A similar intentionality is necessary to cultivate meaningful time with God. We see this deliberate relational approach modeled by Jesus: He set aside time alone and allowed that time to impact Him. Often we begin the day intent on having devotions at a set time, but as the day goes on, one item after another bombards and distracts us until devotions are postponed or forgotten until the next day.

But when we center ourselves in God, things fall into proper perspective and a quiet time becomes a priority rather than something that we squeeze into our leftover time.

This relational connection requires discipline.

In 1 Corinthians 9, the apostle Paul used the imagery of athletic games to illustrate the need for spiritual discipline. The term translated “strict training” (v. 25) literally means “the power of self-control; to practice abstinence.”

When athletes commit to the Olympics, they avoid anything that might distract them. Disciplined exercise and rigorous diet are essential. Similarly, by setting up a daily devotional discipline and, through God’s strength, making it a priority, the results can amaze us.

Here are some ways to set up a quiet time:

Set realistic expectations. I knew a student who was an excellent writer. The problem was that he consistently turned in his papers late. “If I can’t do it right, I won’t do it!” he declared. His commitment to perfectionism caused him to do things that actually damaged his grade rather than improve it.

Many of us have a similar approach to maintaining a quiet time. We often decide to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” If we cannot do it exactly the way we want, we don’t do it at all.

But devotional time with God is not about perfection, it is about progress. It is better to have a short and deliberate time than to skip it entirely in the name of high standards. Perfect circumstances rarely occur, and if we wait to have devotions until they do, we may never have them.

Find the right place. C. S. Lewis, in his book Letters to Malcolm, has a surprising suggestion regarding devotional times. His advice is to make sure there is “just the right amount of distraction” to help us concentrate. Lewis tells of a man who had his devotional time in a railroad compartment because complete silence left too much temptation for his mind to wander. The sounds of the railcar forced him to concentrate. His focus was enhanced when it was slightly challenged.

The point is that we’re not always going to find a place that is as quiet as an undiscovered cave. We need to find the place that best fits our needs and enhances our quiet time.

Reserve a daily time. Many people emphasize the importance of starting the day with devotions. I once heard someone say that the code for his own devotional life was, “No Bible, no breakfast.” This commitment may have worked for him, but depending on your metabolism, occupation, or lifestyle, devotions may be better for you at midday or even late at night. Everyone is different.

The Bible encourages meeting with God at any time of the day. David wrote, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You” (psalm 63:1 nkjv). He also mentioned his anticipation to meditate on God’s Word during the “watches of the night” (psalm 119:148). Daniel prayed at three set times a day (daniel 6:10). And the first psalm refers to the blessed man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night” (1:2).

There is wonderful freedom about meeting times with God. It is up to us to decide what time of day is best suited for us to meet with Him. What matters is the commitment to having a daily time when God can speak with you through His Word and you can respond to Him in prayer.

Whether we need a highly disciplined schedule or prefer a more relaxed one, we all need a plan. Use a wall calendar, smart phone, daily planner, computer, or any other type of calendar to mark the daily time set aside to meet with God.

It’s better to be brief and consistent. A music instructor said, “It’s better to practice 15 minutes a day every day than to practice several hours just two days a week.”

This principle easily applies to our devotional time. It is better to block out just 15 minutes and to consistently keep that time than to let our daily discipline be eaten away by multiple distractions and then try to make up with one or two long sessions with God. Manageable devotional times, even if they are brief, get us in the practice and may lead to more consistent and longer times. After prayerfully deciding how much time to spend, write it on your calendar.