We've all been there - seated comfortably in a chair with Bible in hand in some early morning or late evening hour when all is still, ready to engage with God through study and prayer - yet we feel numb and far from God, desensitized to the eternal Word which should be leaping off the page and driving us to our knees in fervent prayer. What's wrong?
Many things could be wrong, including many natural, physical realities (like too little sleep, on-coming illness, lack of exercise leading to general lethargy, etc.). Or the problem may be spiritual. Why don't we have more fruitful experiences of rich communion with God? Possibly because our orientation since we last sought God's face has been decidedly earthly-minded.
Jerremiah Burroughs points to this when he writes, "You complain many times of your vain thoughts in the performance of holy duties. You cry out of dead spirits then, but here lies the cause: you have given yourself up so much to the things of the world at other times that, when you come to converse with God, your hearts are so dead and dull....Oh, how many prayers have been spoiled by an earthly heart!" (A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness, p. 46)
We cannot expect fruitful and fully-engaged quiet times unless we make a concerted effort to spend the rest of our time in a generally God/gospel-oriented frame of mind/spirit. That does not mean we should live like monks, read only Christian books, listen to only Christian music or seclude ourselves from unbelievers. It means that whatever we do (I Cor. 10:31), we should do with an eye toward pleasing God out of a delight in His grace. Such a Godward orientation in the ebb and flow of life sets us up for rich seasons of biblical study and prayer in our private devotional lives and with our families during daily, family worship. By contrast, even the most disciplined daily devotional habits cannot make up for a general orientation of earthly-mindedness.