In our BC (‘Before Corona’) lives, we all complained that we didn’t have enough time for private devotions. Until God Himself pushed a ‘pause’ button on the whole planet, putting most of us under house arrest, i.e., lockdown. Now we have more time available for quiet times; but that doesn’t guarantee motivation. Why bother waking up early or setting aside time when there are a million other digital diversions?
What was once assumed has now become optional for Christians. In the name of liberty, we are losing essential disciplines. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord assumes that we have a regular habit of private prayer: “…when you pray, go into your inner room [your “closet”, KJV], close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret….” (Matt. 6:6) When it comes to personal devotions, Christ commands you to be a kind of ‘closet Christian’ who regularly fellowships with Him. Oswald Chambers wrote, “It is impossible to live the life of a disciple without definite times of secret prayer.”
There is a breed of Christians, and even pastors, who snap back and cry, “Legalism! Show me one verse in the Bible that says you should have a quiet time.” So I decided to take up that challenge. Here is a brief sketch of more than 30 different texts of Scripture that would be almost impossible to apply without some kind of daily quiet time. I’ve organized them under two major headings: biblical examples, and biblical instructions.
Biblical Examples of a Quiet Time
Think of the great examples in Scripture of regular devotion: Adam walked with God in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8); Enoch and Noah “walked with God” and were known for the regular friendship with their Lord (Gen. 5:24; 6:9); Moses’ regular prayer life was an example to all (Exod 33:8); Job was known for his regular prayers for his children (Job 1:5); and no one had more predictable devotions than Daniel, as even his enemies testified (Dan 6:10,13).
No wonder then that Wilberforce once wrote in his journal, “This perpetual hurry of business and company ruins me in soul, if not in body. More solitude and earlier hours! …Surely the experience of all good men confirms the proposition that without a due measure of private devotions the soul will grow lean.”
Christ Himself got alone with His Father (Mk 1:35). Isaiah even prophesied of how Messiah would be sure to hear from God every morning: “…He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple” (Isa. 50:4). If the sinless Son of God needed this, how much more do we! Andrew Murray wrote: “That is the secret of true prayer, of true power in prayer…and of power for service. There is no true…conversion…holiness…power…peace or joy, without being daily alone with God. What an inestimable privilege is the institution of daily secret prayer to begin every morning.”
The Apostle Paul also models for us a life of regular intercession for other believers. How could Paul have ever prayed for all the different needs that he lists without some kind of daily plan (Eph. 1:15-19; 3:14-21; Php 1:3-11; Col. 1:9-14; 1 Thess. 1:2-5; 3:9-13; 2 Thess. 1:3-12, etc.)?
Biblical Instructions about a Quiet Time
We are helped both by biblical models as well as biblical principles. Christian, how could you ever enjoy the “day and night” meditation on Scripture that Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 speak about without some kind of daily habit? And who would not want to be that ‘tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season and prospering’? Or Psalm 119, filled with 176 verses from a man consumed with the Word of God and the God of the Word – verses that could never have been written if he had no devotional life.
Psalm 62 speaks of seeking God in silence, and Psalm 63 speaks of seeking God early and earnestly, hungering and thirsting for His presence publicly and privately. These are the kinds of longings that drive the believer into the closet to commune with Christ. The Apostle Paul speaks of constantly offering ourselves up as living sacrifices and renewing our minds, and praying without ceasing, and praying all kinds of different prayers (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 6:18-20). Hard to do this without a regular habit of some kind. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.”
Paul also calls us to “discipline” ourselves “for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:12). In my 30+ years as a Christian, I’ve not met one mature believer who did not have regular devotions. J.C. Ryle states, “What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little and those who are eminently holy pray much.”
My brother or sister in Christ, how can you live a life of repentance and confession, without regular times of quiet soul-searching (1 Jn. 1:9; Ps. 139:23-24). How can you continue “drawing near”, as Scripture urges us, without private devotions (Heb. 4:16; 7:19; 10:1, 22; Jam. 4:8)? Don Whitney writes, “Can we expect the flames of our worship of God to burn brightly in public on the Lord’s Day when they barely flicker for him in secret on other days? Isn’t it because we do not worship well in private that our corporate worship experience often dissatisfies us?”
May the living God motivate you, and those around you, to become true ‘closet Christians’ who enjoy spiritual intimacy with their God. May our Lord use this current pandemic to spark a spiritual awakening in His Church, starting with personal revival in our private devotions. Murray-McCheyne said, “I ought to pray before seeing any one. …I feel it is far better to begin with God – to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another. …Ah! dear brethren, have you ever tasted this blessedness? There is greater rest and solace to be found in the presence of God for one hour, than in an eternity of the presence of man.”