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Free of Quiet Time Guilt (Dallas Willard)

“Good Christians do their daily devotions.” That teaching puts pressure and guilt on people! It also generates a bifurcated life in which I meet with God for a while and then I go off and live my life without God.

We need to get free of “Quiet Time guilt” Dallas Willard says. Doing away with a devotional hour is not the answer. I’ve thumbed through Dallas’ personal Bible and can tell you it was well-worn and full of markings.

But Bible reading needs to be done with grace and flexibility. 

“Reading” the Bible looks different depending on your personality and needs. It might be: 

  • Listening to an audio Bible podcast while you clean your kitchen
  • Meditating on a Scripture you’ve memorized
  • Drawing a pencil sketch of a girl jumping into Daddy Jesus’ arms (as Kristi did to reflect on the Parable of the Prodigal Son)
  • Sitting under a tree while you pray to be like the Psalm 1 tree planted by the stream of water
  • Asking a friend, “How have you been blessed from a Bible passage recently?”
  • Silently breathing in and out Psalm 62:5: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (as I did with Soul Shepherding Spiritual Direction Training faculty this morning)

Last week in this blog we talked about “Dallas Willard’s Spiritual Disciplines For Workaholics.” Readers told me that Dallas’ example of embedding connection points with Christ into our daily life and work was freeing and refreshing for them. It steers us away from the traps of legalism, judging ourselves or others, and proud self-reliance.

“But Dallas’ program wouldn’t work for all workaholics or all people,” one of my readers wisely cautioned. “He wouldn’t want to put that on people.” (What are your thoughts? I respond to your emails, social media posts, and website comments.) 

One time I told Dallas that as a therapist I was Christ’s Ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20). He lit up, “That’s right! As George Fox taught, we always want to take people off of men (and women) and put them onto God.”

Jesus puts us onto God — not by giving us a program of what we should do, but by caring for us and customizing a rhythm of life with God which features the spiritual disciplines we need. As I wrote previously, “Spiritual Disciplines are Dung” except as they put us in a position to draw on God’s grace. 

Dallas’ dictum for the disciplines of the spiritual life is “Don’t try, train.” Depending on our willpower to do what’s good is endless, exhausting, and induces the cycling of pride and guilt. Instead, Dallas would have us to train in order to develop habits of love.

Then Quiet Time in God’s presence spills out into words of praise to the Lord and acts of kindness to neighbors all day long!

In Dallas’ case, he grew into his Philosopher version of Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing God’s Presence” only after years of intensive training in which he spent whole days to:

  • Be alone with the Lord and in a quiet place 
  • Read a Gospel straight through
  • Study the Bible extensively on a subject
  • Engage in spiritual conversation with a friend (his wife Jane or his friend Richard Foster)
  • Read classic books by Jesus’ best and brightest
  • Memorize chapters of the Bible
  • Attend a revival meeting or prayer conference

May the Lord strengthen you and me to stomach it when we need a training regimen so that Quiet Time fills our life with love for God and people.

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