Speaking as someone who has his “quiet time” in the evening and isn't a big fan of breakfast, the rule of “No Bible, No Breakfast” has never really made a lot of sense to me.

So how is your quiet time going? I think most of us, if we were honest, would admit that we are not having it as regularly as we would like, or praying for as long as we would like, or feeling as productive as we would like.

But what is it that we're doing when we have our quiet time? We know what we aren't doing—a quiet time isn't a way of getting right with God, or being at peace with God. That comes from our justification by faith (Romans 5:1). It also isn't the way we get “close to God”, as we draw near to God through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22).

So what are we doing? I believe that a way forward in thinking about our quiet times is as a time set aside for conversation with God, on the basis of the relationship that he has already established. God speaks to us through our reading of his Spirit-illuminated word (1 Corinthians 2:11-13) and we respond by addressing God in prayer through the intercession of Christ, our great high priest.

The “conversation” understanding has implications for how we approach our quiet times. The nature of the conversations that we have with a person depends on our relationship with that person. One of the fundamental aspects of our relationship with God is that he is the Lord, and we are his servants.

It is in fact for this very purpose that we have been saved, to serve him by walking in the good works that he has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10)! What are the good works? Our job description is to love one another (John 13:34). How are we trained to perform these good works? Our training program is understanding and applying Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Our quiet times can then be thought of as a staff meeting with God, where he sets the agenda, explains to us what we should do for others, trains us how to do it and encourages us to ask for the resources that we will need. We respond by praising God for the good things he has done for us, thanking him for the opportunities that we have to serve others and asking him to prepare the way for our work. This is the pattern of prayer that Paul uses in Philippians 1:3-11 and Colossians 1:9-12.

The length our of prayers is of much less significance than their sincerity. In Matthew 6:7-15, Jesus rebukes the Gentiles for heaping up empty phrases, thinking that they'll be heard for the length of their prayers, but instead teaches them to pray a 51-word prayer.

Note though, that God never promises that this will be easy or emotionally uplifting or satisfying. In Colossians 4:12, Paul describes Epaphras as always “struggling” on behalf of the Colossians in his prayers.

How are your quiet times? Are you, like me, sometimes motivated by a guilty conscience for having been slack recently? Or do you sometimes feel that you need to compete in the “Most Spiritual” stakes with the prayer warriors at church? Do you approach God as a powerpoint into which you feel you must plug yourself daily to recharge your spiritual batteries? Or do you instead come with a shopping list of requests like he's a sales assistant rather than the Lord of the Universe?

As for me, I'm looking forward to staff meetings that equip me to be a better servant of others, quiet times that are other-person-focused even when I'm alone. And I expect it sometimes (like staff meetings) to be a hard slog.

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You may some great points Steve - reminds me of what I was told when I first became a Christian and I asked how often should I read my Bible and pray? I was told that because that was part of my personal relationship with God and not a law, then the answer is ‘How long is a piece of string?’ How good do I want my personal relationship with God to be? If I stopped listening and talking to my wife - our relationship would wither. I like the task-oriented nature of your staff-meeting illustration (I am a bloke), but it is not the only thing a quiet time can be - a counselling session with the Great Physician, a family talk with Dad, a time of confession etc are all other facets of the same jewel. Thanks for the writing of HCE and your contributions in stirring one another up to love and good works!

Posted by Russell Powell on 16 March, 2005 8:28 PM
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