1107061Do you know what’s quiet time? You may not if you didn’t grow up in mainstream evangelical culture. Quiet time (QT) is the name given to the evangelical spiritual discipline of regular bible study and prayer. Growing up in an evangelical church, you were expected to set apart time each day to commune with God through bible study and prayer. In bible study, God speaks to you. In prayer you speak to God. Usually your spiritual maturity would be gauged by how faithful you were in doing your quiet time. If you did it everyday you were a committed disciple.

As I look back at my own life as a Christian, and I have been following Christ consciously since 1969, I realize my track record for QT is at best mixed. I also found out that the quickest way to kill a conversation among church folk is to ask folks how regularly they were doing their QT. The usual response was an embarrassed silence.

I suspect QT as a practice is in critical condition. And I am not sure I want to revive it. Why? Because QT as it is usually practiced, has become too rational, too impersonal, and too man-centred.

Let’s take a look at how QT is usually done.

Bible study was to be done in three stages: observation, interpretation, and application. You looked at a given passage till you understood it’s main points. Than you thought through how to apply the points to your life. The whole exercise happened primarily in your head. You interacted primarily with ideas, i.e. the biblical text.

Prayer? This was usually done as guided by the acronym ACTS, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. You did the talking, God did the listening. If the passage of the day gave you ideas, you could pray over that. But more often than not, you set the agenda.

I discovered that doing QT in the traditional evangelical way left my heart cold. I knew I shouldn’t depend on feelings but often I would walk away from my QT, relieved that I had done my spiritual duty, and perhaps, having some interesting biblical insights for the day, but somehow feeling that it wasn’t quite enough.

What turned things around for me was the opportunity to sit at the feet of Dr. Bruce Waltke in his hermeneutics class at Regent College. He used Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6) to teach us how we should approach the Word of God and the God of the Word.

>From that passage, he reminded us that any attempt to commune with God must bear in mind two things:

1. Who is this God? 2. How should we approach Him?

When we meet Moses in the beginning of Exodus Chapter three, he encounters a bush that burns but doesn’t get burned up. It is a phenomenon he doesn’t understand, and out of curiosity, he approaches the burning bush to get a closer look. In truth he is approaching the Living God.

I believe that when most of us open our bibles, we open its pages with the same ignorance. We have no idea what we are doing. Like Moses we do not understand that we are approaching a Person, not just a set of ideas. And this Person is the Lord God Almighty, a totally other and holy God who by nature cannot tolerate sin.

When we open our bibles, we are in danger for our very lives, but like Moses as he approached the burning bush, we are blissfully unaware of the danger we are in.

The problem with most of our QT and our bible studies is that we have forgotten what actually happens when we open the Scriptures. Over familiarity has dulled our spirits. We think we are just reading a book. We think our mind is just imbibing new ideas. When in fact we are approaching the Holy Fire.

Fortunately, this holy God is also a compassionate one. In His compassion He educates Moses as what is happening so that he will not die. He is to take of his shoes because he is standing on holy ground. Suddenly Moses understands what is happening and he hides his face in fear.

The only way to approach a holy and awesome God is in a spirit of submission. God may be our Father (Galatians 4:6) and our Friend (John 15:15). But He is still God.

If we treat bible study as just another exercise where autonomous man manipulates data, we will find that we will not hear the Living Word speak through the written Word.

But when we approach our God and Father on our knees, in humble acknowledgement of His Lordship, we will hear His voice. And once more we will be invited to participate in His purposes, as Moses was.

We live in a world inundated with data. If QT means a rational study of more data, no wonder we are not particularly thrilled by the idea. We also live in an increasingly lonely world. If QT is just an encounter with a book, and not a personal God, no wonder our hearts are still hungry.

The answer is not to throw away our usual QT techniques. The answer does not lie with technique at all. The answer lies in the stance our heart adopts as we approach the Holy. The answer is to remember that we are approaching a Holy and Awesome God.

If we allow Him to set the agenda, if we approach with ready hearts, and our sandals off, then just maybe, we will reconnect again to the God who made us and who saved us. And our hearts will be filled once more. And overflow.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan