The Quiet Time: Legalistic Rule or Helpful Tool?

Ten Commandments

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I’m not aware of a single Bible verse that commands us to have a daily quiet time. So if we’re looking for an excuse, we may be off the hook. And if we’re struggling with guilt over this practice, maybe we shouldn’t. After all, isn’t that a terrible motive for spending time with someone?

On the other hand, why wouldn’t we choose to spend at least a few minutes of dedicated time with God every day? Why would we tell the world that Jesus is the most important person in our lives while secretly treating Him like a stranger? I don’t want to discourage anyone. But I have to ask a question: Are we attempting to follow someone that we don’t enjoy being alone with?

I believe every Christian should have a daily quiet time. But I don’t think it’s a requirement. It’s just a tool. And if we make it a law, we will soon find ourselves swimming in a pool of guilt or pride. But if we see it as a space to practice disciplines that are encouraged and modeled in the Scriptures, it becomes a blessing that helps us to grow in Christ.

By “quiet time,” I’m referring to the daily practice of dedicating anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more to reading God’s Word, meditation, and prayer. So often, the Bible seems to present these actions as the all-consuming passion of the man or woman of God. With a quiet time, we’re just creating a small compartment in our busy day for practices that should permeate our lives anyway.

Instead of being an end in itself, a quiet time is the appetizer to a meal that we should be enjoying all day long. Ideally, it stimulates our desire for the things of God.

The quiet time helps us to develop a love for God’s Word

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with doing anything “day and night.” Yet the Bible emphasizes the blessings that come to those who are always meditating on God’s Word. (see also Psalm 1:1-3) I don’t think this means we should live in a cave and recite Bible verses 24/7. But we can get to a place where the Word of God is ever on our hearts. It can impact our decisions throughout the day. We can grow in our understanding of God’s character and experience a deeper walk with Him. But we can’t if we won’t cultivate a love for God’s Word.

I have found that a daily quiet time provides a bite-sized way to make God’s Word a part of my life. It’s manageable. I can do it. It’s a place to start.

As I’ve prioritized this daily appointment with God, I’ve seen my love for the Scriptures soar. I’ve also discovered that the Bible is practical. I’m often amazed at how the passages of Scripture I read in the morning speak to my needs that very day. Over the years, as I have developed this daily routine, my appetite for God’s Word has increased.

If you haven’t been using a daily quiet time to grow in your love for God’s Word, I encourage you to give it a try. You may be surprised at how quickly you notice the change.

The quiet time helps us to develop a prayer life

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Prayer is a lot like jogging or riding a bike or golfing. It’s not always easy at first. But then we start to experience the benefits and the joy of it. It gets into our blood. We come to love it. We look for opportunities to do it. There are days when it seems harder than it did the day before and times when it appears to be unproductive. And there are days when it’s exhilarating. In time, we become a runner, or a cyclist, or a golfer, or a person of prayer.

We can dabble in it. Or we can take it seriously. You can imagine what a difference either approach will make.

The Apostle Paul tells us to pray for everything (Philippians 4:6-7). He also tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Does this mean that we should just pray “on the fly,” as issues pop into our minds? There’s nothing wrong with that. I would love to engage in a never-ending conversation with God as I go through my day. I think that would be healthy. But what is it about our experience with prayer that makes us feel a need to multi-task while doing it? Isn’t prayer worthy, on its own, of a little dedicated effort?

In some ways, to “pray without ceasing” doesn’t take any discipline or effort on our part. It has the same appeal as the ads that tell us we can make money while watching TV or lose weight without diet or exercise. We kid ourselves into believing that prayer will be our “lifestyle” when we don’t believe in it enough to actually make it a priority.

A daily quiet time can help us to prioritize the discipline of prayer. It gives us the time and space to pray for a few things as we develop a heart to pray for everything.

The reverse to that approach never worked for me. I found that if I didn’t have a consistent daily time set aside for prayer, I also didn’t pray much throughout the remainder of my day. Having a time for prayer helps me to be more prayer-minded throughout the entire day.

I’m not advocating that we pray until it becomes a habit. I’m suggesting that we pray until we see the hand of God at work in our prayers. That is what ultimately makes us people of prayer.

 It’s good to have a daily quiet time

In the realm of things that I can control, nothing in my spiritual life has helped me more than deciding to spend at least a few minutes alone with God every day. It has helped me to grow in my love for God’s Word and to become more of a man of prayer. Of course, it’s God, and not the quiet time, that has brought about the transformation.

My daily quiet time is an imperfect attempt on my part to prioritize my relationship with God. But I have found it to be a wonderful tool to help me grow in Christ. Thankfully, God has chosen to bless me through this simple daily commitment.

I know that there is a lot of guilt-ridden baggage associated with the daily quiet time. But I think that stems from making the quiet time a law instead of seeing it as a tool. While you may be able to make a compelling case that the quiet time is not commanded in Scripture, I can think of no good reason not to have one anyway.

So in the spirit of grace, I encourage you to make time for God, His Word, and prayer every day. You’ll be blessed if you do.

What about you? What has been your experience with the daily quiet time? Does this subject fill you with thoughts of legalism or grace? Please give your responses in the comments section below.

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3 Responses to The Quiet Time: Legalistic Rule or Helpful Tool?

  1. Gerrit Kamp August 2, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

    Rory, what a great article, thank you very much! I agree that a Quiet Time is not commanded to New Testament Christians. But funny enough, it kind of was to Old Testament kings:

    Deuteronomy 17:18 “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes

    For me, I get my spiritual food in my daily quiet time and would not want to miss it for anything. Its so important to me that I build a tool for it to help me.

    • Rory Brannum August 2, 2016 at 11:40 pm #

      Thank you for the helpful words, Gerrit. I just visited your website and your quiet time tool looks great.

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