I would ask this of someone who is “suspect” of a quiet time: Does that mean you are also suspect of church services? After all, do we not tend to do the same thing with our Sunday services? Do not some Christians check God off their list after they have gone to church on Sunday? They get their religiosity fix for the week when they can say, “I went to church.” Because some people do that, does that mean we should be suspect of going to church? So, perhaps we shouldn’t go to church anymore because people could just check it off their list? Of course, such a conclusion would be incorrect and absurd. I am sure the leery leader didn’t mean that by what he said.
Nevertheless, as church leaders we need to be careful what we communicate to our people. Our words carry weight. People already struggle with committing to a discipline of time alone with God. And to hear a worship leader or pastor say something like that from the platform might let them off the hook completely.
Let’s return to the idea of whether a quiet time is a good and needed idea. First of all, is it a scriptural concept? Were there times in the Bible when people got alone with God? Absolutely. Times of solitude often characterized people of faith. The term “quiet time” emphasizes two important things we all need: to be quiet and to prioritize our time. Quiet times are focused times to help us not be interrupted by other people or things. Also, they are times which are set aside as a specific length of minutes or hours.
Jesus often had quiet times where he would hide away and pray. His were times with his Father that were both quiet and lengthy. Often he would distance himself from the crowds and pray for hours, sometimes praying all night. “One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night” (Luke 6:12). Mark 6:45-46 records, “After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”
As a shepherd in the fields David spent a great deal of time alone with God. He had a deep appreciation for how “the heavens declare the glory of God” because he no doubt did a lot of staring up at those heavens. People like Enoch had a simple and profound intimacy with his Maker. He was clearly focused and intentional. One commentator said this of Genesis 5:24: “‘Enoch walked with God’…denotes a steady continuance in well-doing, and a life spent in the immediate presence of and in constant communion with God.”
Intentional time alone with God is extremely important. Not only is it scriptural, it is also practical. Time with God in meditating on his Word is like eating a meal. 1 Peter 2:2 says, “As young babes, desire the sincere milk of the word.” Peter compared the Word to food. Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat” (Matthew 5:6, The Message).
Following God, doing what he said, listening to him, and meditating on his word—all those things can be like enjoying a meal. Think about a meal. How do you prefer to eat your meals? Do you just grab them and go? Just grab a little bite here, a little bite there? Just whenever you get a chance to get a bite? No, you sit down, and you have a meal. You make time for a meal, don’t you? Why is that? If you are like most people you want to focus on your eating.
Another analogy for meditating on the Word is being a student. Isaiah said, “He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Isaiah 50:4). How are we taught? How do students learn? Do they just grab a little learning as they can? Is that the most effective way to learn, to listen for five minutes here and five minutes there between whatever else they are doing? No, our brains can’t work that way. We need time to focus. Therefore, we sit and we listen. That is when we become a true student. That is when we learn the most and the deepest. That is how we should approach the Word of God. Quiet times allow us to learn and grow in our faith and our walk with the Lord.
What is not scriptural is a mandatory time and place to do our quiet times. That is an idea that came along in more modern times. For some, perhaps a regimented approach better fits their personality and learning style. And that can be a good practice, practically speaking. As humans, we are more likely to do something if we set aside a specific time and place for it. Nonetheless, it is not a necessity, and it should not be a rule. To imply someone has to do their quiet time at a certain place and in a certain way would be legalistic and unbiblical.
We have no record of Jesus having his quiet time in a regular place at a regular time. No one we know of in Scripture had a standing “appointment” with God at the same time and place everyday. For that matter, nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to meet with God every day. And nowhere does it legislate a certain amount of time we should read or pray.
What it does say over and over in passages like Psalm 1 and Joshua 1 is that we should meditate on God’s Word day and night. That is the reason for the concern the church leader had who remarked he is suspect of quiet times. He said that instead of only setting aside a few moments each day, we should meditate on the Word all the time—day and night. That certainly sounds good, and technically he is correct. But let’s think this through more carefully. We should hide God’s Word away in our heart, but how do we accomplish such a feat? To best absorb what his Word is saying, we need to focus on it for undisturbed lengths of time. That is where quiet times come in handy. Whether it be 10 minutes, 30 minutes or 3 hours, the time we set aside to be alone in God’s Word and in his presence can catapult us toward digesting his awesome, life-giving whispers of truth to our hungry hearts.
I encourage you to deliberately make more time this year for the discipline of quiet times. If not every day, then at least every other day set aside time exclusively for God, to pray and seek his face. Be sure to remind yourself of that time and get some accountability so others are reminding you to create space in your life and days. Don’t settle to just grab and go. Focus on him and what he wants to say to you. Like Mary in Luke 10, sit and soak before your Savior. Sit at his feet. Allow his written word to change you from the inside out.
As 2 Corinthians 3:18 teaches us, we need to gaze on him and be transformed. If our eyes are gazing upward in prayer and meditation, they are much less likely to be distracted. We have to stop in order to gaze. Think about that. We can’t be moving while we are gazing. We have to arrest our attention to truly gaze.
So I challenge you to stop and gaze. Cease your strivings and be amazed. Be in awe of your awesome holy God. Make time–quiet time–for him this week.