We Forget the Purpose of Our Quiet Times
In seminary I had the opportunity to take a class with Donald Whitney. Dr. Whitney literally wrote the book on spiritual disciplines. Many things stuck out to me from that class. One particular lesson involved fasting.
Dr. Whitney assigned us a day of fasting. No explanation. No teaching on fasting. Just a bare assignment. I’ll confess that it wasn’t all that beneficial to me. I treated it like an assignment, something to get through for the sake of completing the task.
When we returned to class, Dr. Whitney was ready to teach us about fasting. His first point was that our experience with fasting was likely horrible. We didn’t fully know why we were doing it; we weren’t fasting for anything specific, and it felt like an assignment. He was teaching us about drudgery. If we don’t know the purpose of spiritual disciplines, then we won’t find them a joyful exercise.
Tip: Remind yourself daily why you are doing this. This isn’t to check off a box. This isn’t meant to be drudgery. It’s a time to connect with God. These moments are not a mere ritual or religious duty, but a means to cultivate a personal connection with God.
We Swerve from the Gospel
In my opinion, this is the main reason why our quiet times “fail.” Even if we maintain a time of prayer and Bible reading for 365 days a year, if it’s divorced from the good news of Jesus, we haven’t gained much. The gospel of Christ is the fuel for our quiet times. It is the foundation upon which we stand. If we do a quiet time because we think it makes us more pleasing to God, or if we believe we are less pleasing because we stumble through these disciplines, then we’re missing the gospel.
The gospel frees us to be realistic. When we know that our standing with God is based upon what Christ accomplished on our behalf, we can restore the purpose of quiet times. We can rest in the reality that because of the work of Christ, our connection with God will not be severed. We do a quiet time because we are accepted by God, not in order to be accepted.
We Lack Discipline
We’re fallen and sinful people. As such we lack the discipline for good things. We gravitate towards that which will harm us and prevent the flourishing of others. They are called spiritual disciplines for a reason. Laziness and procrastination are siren songs.
For some, the daily discipline of having this ritual will not be a struggle. But the discipline of opening up your heart, making yourself vulnerable, and engaging with God with your whole being will be the area of discipline where you struggle.
Tip: Establish a routine that works for you. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or before bedtime, consistency is key. Start with realistic goals and gradually extend the duration as the habit solidifies. And when this daily time with God becomes part of who we are, we’ll find it far easier to maintain these disciplines.
We Are Spiritually Dry or Overcome with Sin
I know the Bible well enough to know which places of Scripture to avoid if I’m hanging onto a specific sin. Don’t read Proverbs if you want to sow discord and engage in gossip. Don’t read the Gospels if you want to make your life all about acquiring personal wealth and accolades. Sin will keep us away from engaging in quiet times — or at least engaging in them in a way that isn’t merely a performative sham.
Tip: If sin is the problem, repentance is the cure. Confess your sin to the Lord. We find that when we confess, we are met with forgiveness. Repentance itself isn’t all that difficult — it’s getting there that is the problem. Do you really want to hang onto this? Do you really want to have this fracture in your relationship with God?