The next time you feel discouraged and guilty about not having your personal “quiet time,” do this instead: remember the previous Sunday at church, and then breathe a sigh of relief and praise. You have consumed God’s Word. More than that, you have feasted on its abundance. Through singing it, praying it, reading it, and hearing it preached alongside God’s gathered and beloved people, you have “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Your soul has been truly nourished.
What if I told you that your main spiritual meal isn’t meant to be your private devotional time with the Lord?
As individuals swimming in autonomous Western waters, this is a hard concept for us to grasp. After all, reading God’s Word by ourselves and communing with the Lord in private are good and wonderful things! We should absolutely pursue God by opening our Bibles whenever we can, with an eagerness to hear his voice.
But your individual devotional time—or “quiet time,” as we so fondly like to call it—is not meant to be your main source of spiritual nourishment. The church is. Here’s why.
Debunking “Quiet Time”
First, there is no command in the Bible about having a daily quiet time. There are commands about loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). There are commands to keep in step with the Spirit, who teaches us the truth about the gospel through Scripture (Gal. 5:1–26). And there are commands to hold fast to the word of life, to not be deceived by false teaching, and to hold our original confidence firm to the very end (Phil. 2:16; 1 Tim. 4:6–16; Heb. 3:14).
But is there any command like “you shall arise at five in the morning, coffee in hand, and spend time with the Lord alone for two hours”? No.
God isn’t prescriptive about this in his Word. Instead, he commands proper priorities for the growth of our souls in him: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and [everything else you need] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). He wants us to hunger for the bread of life, not for an idealistic formula. He wants us to pursue Jesus, not a perfect quiet time, as if there were such a thing.
Discovering God’s Intention
Second, Scripture shows us that God’s words have overarchingly been directed to his gathered people, not solely to individuals. For example:
When God spoke the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, he intended them for the Israelites, his redeemed people (Ex. 20). When God spoke to the prophets, bringing them his words of remembrance and warning, he told them to relay these words to his wayward people (Isa. 1:4; Jer. 2:1–13). When God spoke his law through prophets like Joshua (Josh. 24) and kings like Josiah (2 Kings 23:1–2) and priests like Ezra (Ezra 7:10; Neh. 8:1–3), he did so in the hearing of all God’s people.
And what about the New Testament?