It’s very common for people to refer to their time of Bible reading and/or prayer as “devotions” or “quiet time”. There are reasons that make sense for both. But lately I’ve been wondering if our names for this time are an indication of a misguided perspective on our relationship with Christ.
Hear me out. I’m just pondering out loud.
Common Terms: “Devotions” and “Quiet Time”
“Devotions” is more of a traditional word, in my experience. The dictionary defines it as “prayers or religious observances“. So, technically speaking, if you’re spending time praying or reading your Bible or doing anything with intention toward building your faith, “devotions” is an accurate term.
“Quiet time” seems to be more of a modern phrase, relatively speaking. Usually when people talk about their “quiet time“, they are referring to a time that is set aside specifically for prayer and/or Bible reading or study. Typically, it is intended to be actually quiet – or at least quieter!
So neither of these terms is wrong or inaccurate. They work. They can describe the activity you’re engaged in.
So why am I questioning them?
The thing I don’t love about using the word “devotions” is that it has a connotation of formality to me. I know that’s a personal thing and it might sound totally different to another person. But I wonder how it comes across to someone who doesn’t know the Lord, who hasn’t yet encountered Jesus in a personal way. If they hear us talk about “having devotions”, do they know what we’re talking about? Does it give them an accurate description of what we’re actually doing? I’m just curious. What do they actually envision?
Is “Quiet Time” Really Quiet?
I prefer to use “quiet time“, if I have to choose between the two. However, we’ve worked hard over the years to cultivate an actual quiet environment in our home. Four out of five of us are introverts, so we actually do quiet really, really well. My ideal focused time with my Bible is a time in silence.
The trouble is, not everyone has the luxury of actual quiet. So does it still make sense for them to call it “quiet” time?
Another thing is… a conversation is not silence. And if we really believe that our Bibles are God’s Word to us, isn’t our “quiet time” a conversation? It should be. Our time with the Lord should be more than just checking off a spiritual-looking to-do list (i.e. read 3 chapters, pray for that person, repeat my memory verse 5 times, etc.). Our prayers should not just be one-sided. Are we taking the time to listen, too?
I suppose some conversations are actually quiet. Quiet, but not silent. But in my experience, sometimes God is speaking to me quite loudly, figuratively speaking. Sometimes I’M far from silent, for that matter!
And what about when my devoted time with Him includes worship music or listening to a sermon or a podcast?
Time With God Is Constant
The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about, though, is that our time with God doesn’t need to always be a designated time that is completely separate from every other person and activity in our lives. Those times are good and even important. But our God is Emmanuel – God WITH us. (Matthew 1:23; Psalm 139:7-10; 1 Corinthians 3:16) He is ever-present. We can talk to Him at all times of the day or night and He is there listening and even talking to us! When I’m walking in obedience to Him during my day, I’m living out my worship of Him. I’m deepening my relationship with Him.
That’s the difference between our relationship with God and our relationship with anyone else. With people, we have to actually have some time set apart to be focused and engaged with them. But not with God. Our entire lives can be lived in relationship with Him.
So does it make sense to even say, “I’m having my time with God now”?
Let me be clear… I use the terms “devotions” and “quiet time” constantly. Again, I don’t think there’s anything WRONG with them. I’ve even used the term “date with God” or “appointment with God” when I’ve actually marked a slot in my calendar to make sure I keep it open and available and committed to Him. I do spend time devoted specifically to prayer and Bible reading and study.
I just wonder if there are other things I could be calling it. Would there be other terms that would be more accurate?
Your feedback on this one is so welcome! I’m very interested in having a conversation on this topic. Do any of you use a completely different phrase to refer to your time with God?