Habitual ‘quiet times’ should be good for our souls, because God made us to feed on his word and commune with him in prayer. Unfortunately too many Christians emphasize the “quiet” side too much.
Some people suggest that we should spend our quiet times “listening to God” for twenty minutes. They suggest literally remaining quiet. This is unhelpful advice for several reasons.
First, it does not work. Our minds wander and our focus wavers.
Second, it is unbiblical; Christ-centered prayer and meditation is not done by emptying ourselves of thought (that is Buddhism), but by filling ourselves with the word of God (Ps. 1). Let God’s light fill you to uncover the dark spots in your heart.
You might say, “So you think God doesn’t speak in prayer?” No, think that God speaks, but I think that many other voices speak too. Adam and Eve fell because they emptied themselves of God’s word and “listened” to other voices (Gen. 3:17). By meditating on God’s word, you let it guide your thoughts, rather than your subjective will (which might lead you to sinful decisions).
So instead of quiet times, I want promote “Remembrance Time.” A time to let the Bible speak into you, and joyfully guide you to remember what Christ has done for you and what he promises to do.
In Joshua 4:1-24, the Israelites cross into the promised land over a river that God miraculously dries up. After the last man crosses, the river miraculously begins to flow again. Do you think you would ever forget such a sight? Probably not, but God knows better. He commands them to build a statue symbolizing their crossing, a pillar of remembrance, so that they would not forget.
Tim Keller writes,
“It would seem ridiculous to imagine that the people could forget such a remarkable miracle. But the [pillar of remembrance] is testimony to the fact that sin makes us ‘forget’. … The main difference between a growing Christian and a stagnant Christian is the truth is ‘refreshed’ regularly to the growing Christian. Nasty things our parents said to us 20 years ago are still on Video’ in our souls, but God’s promises are only on ‘audio’. Our hearts can hold on forever to the reality of being insulted or rejected or of being a failure, but it cannot ‘remember’ being assured, comforted or humbled by God.“
In this world the promises of sin always feel more real than the promises of God. Every morning we need to return our pillar of remembrance–the bible–and take time to remember what Jesus did for us by listening to His word, meditating upon it, and then looking upon him through his promises as we pray to the father.
The goal is not empty quietness; if you want that, go to sleep. The goal is filled up remembrance in Jesus.