Evangelical Christians teach the “Quiet Time” as an essential element to their faith. What is it, you ask? Well, it is a daily, intentional time to get away in quiet with God—read the Bible, pray, and meditate. Why should we do it? Simple, Mark 1:35 reads, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Thus, because of Mark 1:35, Jesus has a daily quiet time.
Last night I tweeted out my thought that saying “Jesus had a quiet time” is anachronistic. Now, lest the boo birds come out to get me, I wanted to take a moment and better explain my reasoning. It doesn’t take long if you are in a discipling relationship for someone to start teaching them about a quiet time/personal devotions/spiritual disciplines, or something like that. In fact, I’m working through some discipleship material with a group of guys right now and the most recent lesson was on having a quiet time. It was a great lesson and challenging discussion. Then we explain the reason for having them—Why? Because Jesus had them.
Now, why do I say this type of explanation is anachronistic? Two reasons:
- A printed Bible: The modern understanding of having a quiet time revolves around getting up super early (because we are still farmers), getting your Bible, your coffee, and your chair, and reading that Bible. However, early Christians didn’t have Bibles they could walk around with and read. Thus, our modern concept of a quiet time would not be understood by our early brothers and sisters. However, I hope that our goal is the same.
- The way we read the word “Abide”: My recent study that addressed the quiet time brought us to John 15:1-11, a famous passage where Jesus speaks to the joys of abiding in him and the consequences of not abiding. Those who abide in him bear fruit, and their joy is full. And—almost immediately—the modern Christian thinks abiding=a daily quiet time. However, Jesus says clearly in v. 10, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” Thus, Jesus shows us how we know if we are abiding—we are obeying.
So that phrase about Jesus having a “quiet time”, to me, is a misapplication of an important idea—how we foster a relationship with God that leads toward regular obedience. People who teach and write about quiet times are, at least my experience, already the most super-disciplined people in the world. They’d get up at 3am regardless of if they knew Jesus or not. They’d be in the gym by 6am simply because they like working out, not merely because they are Christians. (“You can have a quiet time whenever you want—it is whatever works for you—but early in the morning really is best.” Thanks, bro. Glad you could throw some shade my way so I could feel worse about myself.)
I think the concept of a quiet time, to use the popular parlance, undersells the steady need of the disciple to regularly listen to and obey the commands of the Lord. It quickly bundles important habits into one time and leaves it at that. The hope—increased obedience—is ceartinly there, but I think it strips ongoing connection and obedience of its power and necessity.
When the question becomes “How do we foster a relationship with God that leads toward regular obedience?” then the answers change. Should there be a regular time of exposure to the Scriptures (perhaps even multiple ways a day)? Absolutely. But that comes both personally (through reading and/or listening to the Scriptures, studying, meditating, and memorizing) and corporately (through interacting with other brothers and sisters about the Scriptures and hearing it preached in worship services). Should it include prayer? You better believe it. That was clearly a priority of Jesus. Should it include solitude? This introvert certainly hopes so, and the life of Jesus demonstrates as much. Should these interactions happen early? Yep, at times. Jesus did get up early and pray. Should these interactions be late into the night? Yep. Jesus also prayed through the night before selecting the disciples.
When we start with the end in mind—a relationship that leads toward obedience—it changes the conversation and, at least in my opinion, helps us expand the need for and varied elements to include in consistent times with God. For our discipleship to be the all-encompassing, take-up-your-cross-daily type of discipleship, it must include all of us becoming like all of Jesus. Only then do we exhibit the type of life the Lord would long for us to have—the type of life that Christ died for us to be able to have.