Most professors, chapel addresses, and other seminary students loudly proclaimed the sinfulness of failing to have a daily quiet time. I would often be asked by my well-meaning seminary brothers, apparently trying to hold me accountable, "Brother, did you have your quiet time today?" May God have mercy on your soul if you slept late that morning.
Nevertheless, Chris Ortiz out at The Chalcedon Foundation, blogging on an interesting perspective by Martin Selbrede on this issue, makes a provocative claim.
I thought I'd look up some representative claims regarding a personal quiet time and see if anybody--anywhere--supported the notion with anything other than what I said they were using (to wit, making a weak, out-of-context inference from a verse concerning Jesus praying away from the crowds that pressed on Him). None of the sources provide a single command in Scripture concerning the doctrine of a personal quiet time. The Great Commission says we are to teach the nations "all things whatsoever I have commanded." Where God did not command, we have no imperative to teach (especially to teach something as a binding obligation!). Teaching the necessity for a personal quiet time is to teaching something that God has not commanded (since no command in Scripture concerning it exists -- anywhere).Frankly, I have toyed with the notion of whether or not a personal quiet time is an absolute spiritual necessity. To oppose the practice or even question the legitimacy of it invites rancor of the cruelest sort, that "you just aren't spiritual." Does failure to have a daily quiet time equate to the most abominable sin and does having a quiet time make you more obedient?
Often, in my counseling with other Christians, I use the daily devotional time as a litmus test for that person's spirituality, and I wonder if it is such an effective barometer anymore. What about obedience? Faith? Serving others? Confrontation of personal sin?
Ortiz makes a broad, sweeping assertion that the quiet time is not commanded anywhere in Scripture, nor does Christ really give Christians an example to follow. He cites Mark 1:35 and its parallel, Luke 5:16, and refutes that these verses teach a quiet time.
The text does NOT teach us that Jesus had a quiet time, and He certainly did NOT have a quiet time in the sense that people would, because He didn't lack for intimacy with the Father ("I and the Father are One"), and He elsewhere states (John 11) that His open prayers are for the benefit of those around them hearing His words, and not for His own benefit at all.Ortiz also quotes from, interestingly, an article from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of VA, A Personal Quiet Time with God:
"[The article] provides a similar inferential scripture (not a command or instruction) when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Jesus went alone to be with His Father (Matthew 26:36), and so should we." There are several surprising things about this citation. Jesus's time with His Father was anything but quiet (He sweated blood and cried out to God in anguish), it wasn't private (a stone's throw from his disciples was about 20 yards so they could hear Him)..."The events of the Garden of Gethsemane are nothing but proof-texts to give credence to, as Ortiz points out, an unsupported doctrine.
However, Ortiz's article is far from comprehensive. The one Scripture that popped into my mind that was totally avoided in the article was Matthew 6:6.
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.It is surprising that Ortiz overlooked this passage of Scripture, because this is typically the verse that I have often heard quoted in defense of a personal devotional time. It is easy to see how one could extrapolate having a quiet time from this passage because Christ is teaching in contrast to the way the hypocrites pray, standing in the synagogues, babbling so as to be heard by all and have their apparent spirituality "approved" by passers-by. So, having a quiet time may not be unbiblical, it certainly could be classified as extra-biblical.
Ortiz cites several sources that offer Scripture-less defenses for maintaining a quiet time, and I confess my evidence is purely anecdotal. Nevertheless, it seems that Ortiz may be simply parsing words or jumping through semantic hoops to decry this spiritual discipline. As Ortiz notes, we are commanded in Scripture to pray and study the Word, but the modern notion of a quiet time is not commanded...or is it?