Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is A "Quiet Time" Biblical

I do my best to spend consistent time with God each day. But have had a series of encounters with people who have made "quiet time" a determiner of how good or bad their day turns out to be. Like it's some kind of magic fairy dust that we sprinkle on ourselves in the morning to assure that our day goes right. I have had angst in my spirit about this kind of approach in the past and for a while and it actually turned me off to the concept of quiet time because I found myself rebelling against the "magic jesus" approach that I was seeing in many christians. Isn't a moment by moment, hour by hour, living of the Christian faith far more important than 20 sleepy minutes in the morning trying to convince oneself that this is a good thing? I recently ran across Bill Hull's blog where he addressed this topic. I thought he brought an interesting approach to the table. I've included the entire post below.

By Bill Hull - Posted on February 27th, 2008

One of the first expectations put on me as a new Christian was the " Quiet Time." Most of us know it as a designated period of time each day when we meet with God. I can't forget the many bromides offered up in defense of the "Quiet Time." One of the most memorable was, " The first day you skip your time you will know it, the second day your close friends will know it and the third day everyone will know it." This seems to indicate that a structured time with God each day is required for good behavior and attitude- And if you skip it, there is immediate slippage in attitude and conduct.

I was taught that being in my prayer closet early and often would pay off, it would change me, in fact, I shouldn't leave the Lord until He had spoken to me. I heard stories about Martin Luther who said something like, " I have so much work today that I must get up early and spend three hours in prayer-" Or those great Saints who would meet with God and tears would stain the pages of their bibles or notes. My question is this; if the "Quiet Time" is so crucial and the pay off is so big, and missing it is so disastrous , why do so many people struggle with it? What I mean is, if the results were so dramatic and immediate, wouldn't people make sure they never missed? It would be like taking a medication that would immediately make you feel good and if you stopped, would make you feel terrible. It would make sense that I would take the medication religiously.

It is my opinion that spending time with God doesn't usually pay immediate dividends for good or ill, but over a long period of time the habits of prayer, bible reading, listening to God and meditation do change us. Here is my take, so many people struggle with spending a structured time with God because they try to do it alone. And it was never meant to be an exclusively solitary activity. The first key to learning how to spend time with God is to do it with others in community. The solitary dimension of spending time with God then is helped by a communal energy. The second key is to think of spending time with God as a way of life. Jesus asked to come into out lives and spend time with us, Revelation 3:20. There are times when we pray, fast, listen, and wait on Him with others, sometimes it is alone, most of the time it is when we are living our ordinary lives. It is interacting with associates, walking the dog, weeding the garden, listening to music or during exercise. It is a continual conversation and sense of His presence.

Yes, there are days when we invest chunks of time in some formal procedure, that is essential. But to live under the stressful yoke of the daily "Quiet Time," no thanks, not even God told me to do that.


Jason Pauli said...

I'd agree. Especially with "over a long period of time the habits of prayer, bible reading, listening to God and meditation do change us."

I think Yaconelli got into this in Messy Spirituality.

Personally, I know when I need to get away with God and I'm trying to honor those urgings better than I have in the past.

Matt Donovan said...

I suck at spending intentional, focused time in prayer and reading God's Word. About a 6 weeks ago I set up an automatic email reminder to read my Bible for 5 minutes and pray for my family.

So every day, at 11AM, I get this email that says "Stop what you're doing, read your bible for five minutes and pray for your family." I have to make a conscious decision not to.

There's a bonus here, too. As part of my act of praying - remember, cuz I suck at it, I wrote my prayer out in an email and sent it to my wife. I did that partly because I needed a way to focus and partly because I thought it would be encouraging to her. The bonus was accountability. About a week into to this I ignored the email and went on with my day. Kristin, therefore did not get my email and wondered how I was doing. She emailed me to see how I was.

This isn't magic, but those 5-10 minutes of reading and writing sure stir my soul for Jesus.