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Quiet times

This week I've been listening to sermons from the web on Luke 14.  I'm preaching on it on Sunday.  It's Jesus at a banquet.  He heals on the Sabbath, He teaches about not taking the seats of honour, He calls people to invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to dinner and He speaks of the kingdom as a great feast.  Wonderful stuff.

But do you know, in all the sermons I've listened to from the web, what's been the number one application of Luke 14??  Quiet times!  From both UK and US pastors, the predominant take-home message was 'make sure you get alone with God every day.'  I'm not going to name names but I listened to some big hitters.  And they preached on the feast.  The feast where Jesus tells us to throw feasts and then speaks of the kingdom as a feast.  And what's their conclusion: 'We need to get on our own more!'  ??!  Usually the logic was: Don't take the places of honour => Therefore Get humble => Therefore get on your knees => Therefore commit to quiet times. 

Now there were two notable exceptions:  John Piper was good.  And so was the Australian (obviously!) Mike Frost.  (Those two aren't usually positively lumped together but there you are).  But the rest took Luke 14 and boiled it down into some very individualistic applications.

Now I'm all in favour of ensuring that our doing flows from a lively relationship with Christ.  But why does that equate to 'getting alone with God'??  I mean how do we get from the feast to the prayer closet??  Are conservative evangelicals that afraid of getting our hands dirty in mission, in rubbing shoulders with the poor, crippled, blind and lame?  Are we that individualistic and moralistic?

Anyway...  I do think a healthy relationship with Christ means talking and listening to Him daily.  But why is the quiet time the touch-stone of evangelical spirituality?  Why is it the default application for every sermon?  (I say this against myself)  Why do we reach for the privatized exhortations so readily?

And how many times have I heard Robert Murray McCheyne's daunting challenge:

What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is and no more.

I mean it's right to be challenged by that.  But is it true?  And is it right to aim for this as the very model and highpoint of Christian maturity?  What about: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  (John 13:35)

I dunno.  Bit of a rant really.  What do you think?


0 thoughts on “Quiet times

  1. glenscriv

    Hi Codepoke,
    Thanks for dropping by. Just spent the last 45 minutes reading your blog - (this blogging thing is a vortex I tell you!). Very interested to read the next installment. wow.

    Hi Dave,
    And the unholy trinity (in contrast to the Holy Trinity) is conceived individually!!! So "read the bible" means "read quietly on your own, "pray" means "pray on your own", "evangelise" means go talk to a pagan on your own, then come back here on Sunday and I'll give you some more one-man missions!'

    Anyway, thanks for the links too. I'll check em out.

  2. Missy

    I think your series here regarding the body of the church in relation to the Trinity, with the addition of this article, explain to me why my studies and prayers with others are often a much fuller experience than my studies and prayers alone.

    I had a lot more to say, but it became too much! I'll write a post at home. :)

    Thanks, Glen!

  3. Bobby Grow

    good points, Glen ... but Jesus did it. He got alone and prayed to the Father. I see your point though, it seems to be a both and -- not an either or. The tendency for individualism in evangelicalism I am sure has something to do with our pietistic heritage and functional Pelagianism.

    Although, to use Luke 14 this way, is to make it walk on all fours, so to speak.

    To think trinitarianly, are we ever alone? Are we not in the very life of God, in Christ? Does that mean that if I don't pray in an assembly or congregation context that my prayer, or dialog with God, is less than, if I pray with a group of people? How am I measuring if my prayer is fruitful or unfruitful? Is it an subjective emotively driven experience? Or is it measured by what the Lord defines as prayer, objectively, in the Scriptures? I go with the latter.

    Okay, now you've got me ranting Glen ... a little pass the buck ;-). Thank you for this provocative post.

  4. glenscriv

    Thanks Missy - am liking your post.

    Thanks Dave

    Hi Bobby, Yes, let's measure it objectively in the Scriptures.

    It's an intriguing balance in Matthew 6 don't you find? "Go into your room and pray to your Father who is unseen." And then what is the prayer we're taught? A corporate one: "Our Father." Even when I'm alone I pray corporately! And this is not just because I'm praying by the Spirit, in, with and through the Son. But the prayer Jesus teaches me to pray is a church prayer. Now I happily follow my Master in private prayer but even then I can never forget the corporate dimension.

    I guess my real beef is with preaching and pastoral exhortation which equates absolutely 'getting into the word' with reading the bible on my own. Why does 'prayer time' become in every evangelical's thinking 'private prayer time'? Why is the diagnostic question about my evangelical brother's/sister's spiritual well-being 'how's your quiet times going'? A warm and personal walk with Jesus is essential. Time spent with Jesus away from the other demands of my day is crucial. I'm just trying to flag up the warnings you mention re privatized piety and pelagianism. (Look! 3 P's - I've got a sermon!)

  5. glenscriv

    Ah Byron! Pleasure to have you here! I believe we have Mandy Curley in common. I was at St Matts, Wanniassa with Safety Girl herself. Anyway - I've enjoyed your blog for a long time. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Pingback: What pastor’s really need 2 « Christ the Truth

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