I became a Christian when I was 14. That was over 24 years ago. Almost immediately and with surprising consistency throughout my walk with Christ, I have been taught and exhorted to have a “daily quiet time.”
You’re probably familiar with the concept. The thought is that those who grow more Christlike make time every single day in which a quiet place is found to read the Bible, pray, and maybe journal. It’s a tried and true method of spiritual growth. In fact, a 2020 study identified daily Bible reading as the key indicator of spiritual maturity (of course, how one defines “spiritual maturity” may vary). And– hear me out– I’m not saying there is no value in getting away to a quiet place daily to seek God, read the Scriptures, and reflect on how God’s truth meets your life. But over the last few years I’ve stopped teaching students to have a daily quiet time because only advocating for a “quiet time” limits our understanding of how God wants to form and shape us towards Christ-likeness.
We’re Constantly Being Formed
Everything we do is formative. Every behavior, every habit, every unchecked thought is a subtle move towards a vision of the life we will pursue. A quiet time is a great start, but 10-20 minutes in a day isn’t nearly sufficient to bring every part of life under the authority of Jesus.
A quiet time is vital and yet insufficient to accomplish the goal of our faith: attaining to Christ-likeness (Rom 8:29).
How we describe something reveals what we think about that thing’s nature and purpose. Consider news coverage. You generally know how a given media outlet or personality feels about a variety of issues by their deployment of a handful of key terms (eg. “liberals,” “right wing,” and depending on the outlet, “woke” among others).
Similarly, the terms we use to describe processes offer insight into what we think about the processes themselves. Think about that sexual abuse prevention seminar you had to attend for work. Can you think of anyone who referred to it as “sensitivity training”?
The terms we use assign meaning and value beyond the terms themselves.
A Better Term
I no longer challenge students to have a regular quiet time. Instead, I ask them to develop a “devotional life.” Here are 4 reasons why I prefer the term “devotional life.”
It’s more encompassing. Reading the Bible, praying, and journaling are critical factors in growing in Christlikeness. I’d go so far as to argue that one can’t grow in Christlikeness while neglecting at least Bible reading and prayer. But they aren’t the entirety of what it takes to become Christlike. You also need to prioritize community, service, worship, and more.
It’s more gracious. You may be in a station in life where getting 10-20 minutes of uninterrupted quiet is easily accomplished. Many people’s circumstances don’t allow for that kind of space. Instead of insisting on a term that feels impossible for them to reach, using the term “devotional life” may feel more attainable.
It’s more reflective of spiritual disciplines. Some disciplines aren’t quiet. Some disciplines require other people. Some disciplines might be aided with music. Some disciplines might be accompanied by weeping. A “daily quiet time” doesn’t reserve space for growing in community.
It’s more descriptive. Once again, if the goal is Christlikeness, then all of my life matters, not just a few minutes during the day. The goal is a life oriented towards Jesus, not just a handful of minutes.
Let’s start talking about a life that’s oriented around our pursuit of Jesus.
That’s the point we’re driving at, right?