In a previous post I attempted to make it clear that one's "quiet time" does not change the way God thinks of us, nor does it grant us better access to God. This does not mean that such a discipline is unimportant. In this post I want to lay out my understanding of the quiet time and its value.
This is not a book on the subject, but merely the loosely organized collection of my thoughts. I will suggest far superior and comprehensive material at the end of this series.
Terms So why am I calling it a "quiet time" so much? In my experience, people wanting help in this area are not likely to talk about this ritual as "private worship," though I prefer that term myself. So to make this post accessible and easy to locate in Google, I am pushing the term "quiet time." Besides, all the terms are useful and emphasize different aspects of the discipline. We call it a "quiet time" because in it we practice being still, waiting on God, while hoping with anticipation to hear from him. We call it a "devotional" time because it is an act of seeking God through the means he has prescribed. We call it "private worship" because that is what it is: the worship of Jesus Christ apart from the gathered church.
Definition By "quiet time" or "private worship" I mean a concentrated period of time where a person encounters God by faith, through Scripture and prayer, leading to his spiritual growth, while moving him to live out and share what he has learned/experienced with others. Maybe that's a bit too long, but I believe all of that is important. Let me expand it just a bit.
While the Scripture often emphasizes corporate spiritual exercises, it also pushes the idea of personal spiritual experiences and disciplines. The "quiet time" is the experience of an individual who gets alone with God for a concentrated and limited time. It is important to understand this is an encountering God "by faith" because it is not the discipline alone that is the focus, but the end of such effort. Scripture and prayer are central to this discipline. Other habits can and should be incorporated, but from my perspective there is no time alone with God without the Bible and prayer. There should always be a discourse with God, a pleading for grace for self and others. There should always be praise and thanksgiving. I can't imagine someone suggesting that one can be alone with God without some form of prayer. It may not be formal, well-articulated, or the ACTS model of prayer, but prayer will always happen in the quiet time. Nor do I think we can pray apart from the Scripture. I am not saying one needs an interlinear Greek/English New Testament, a highlighter and a Moleskine journal to engage God - but how can we praise God without calling to mind and meditating on what Scripture tells us of him? At the very least, one's quiet time is a time of prayer and meditation on Scripture while seeking God. This of course contributes to our spiritual development, but one's encounter with God should never - ever - end with himself. We should encounter God, be moved to greater faith and repentance, and be burdened to share this God and Savior with others. If what we learn from God in our "private worship" is worth anything, it will be worth sharing.
Is keeping a quiet time biblical? No one will argue it runs against biblical commands, but the question is, "Is this something God wants from us all?" I believe it is. I believe that the model of daily meditation on scripture, times of prayer and seclusion for the purposes of encountering God is exemplified in the Bible. Such a habit of devotion was the habit of Jesus. Mk. 1:35 Lk. 11:1 Lk. 22:39 Mt. 14:23 Lk. 9:18. So yeah: Getting alone with God frequently for "private worship" is biblical, but I want to avoid building trust in a particular extra-biblical model.
I am not saying the quiet time is the only, or the best way, to encounter God by faith and experience Christian growth. I am not saying that there is only one way to have a quiet time. I am not saying that there is a specified time frame in which one should have their quiet times. I am saying that frequently getting alone with God to pray and meditate on his word is an essential part of a Christian's life. Coming up: Benefits, Excuses, Tips, and False Guilt.