The desire to pray and read the Bible is already there. The popularity of The Blair Witch Project, The Sixth Sense, David Blane’s Street Magic, John Edward’s Crossing Over, the growing book section on speculation, and fascination with UFO sightings, even among Christians, proves man’s profound hunger for the holy. And doing quiet time is experiencing the holy.
So why do people turn to these alternatives to quiet times? Because the God of contemporary Christianity is no longer holy. God has become reduced to a mere object of study; no longer the subject that inspires. Thus quiet time has lost the stillness of the graveyard. And so people must satisfy their craving for the holy elsewhere.
An ideal ghost story is not merely understood; it must bring shivers down the back of one’s spine. An ideal magic act, distinguished from an obvious trick, must evoke a sense of unrestrainable awe. Likewise, the true God must be hallowed, not simply figured out. And hallowing God is the substance of quiet time.
Hallowing evokes shuddering, terror, wonder, eeriness. The feelings evoked are similar to but on an entirely different level from ones caused by watching Crossing Over or seeing an amazing magician’s act. For the more real the uncanny, the more awful the reaction. And nothing is more real or uncanny than God. Compare the response of people who did and did not know that The Blair Witch Project was staged. That is the difference between people who know God as object and hallow God as subject. The supernatural is not merely grasped; it must grasp.
A ghost story transforms from object to subject when it is no longer controlled but controls. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the story goes from being comprehended by the listener to arousing fear in the listener. Prayer is when the one who knows God becomes ravished by Him. Quiet time is praise time.
The growing popularity of the eerie proves that less people are praying to the Holy One. Less people are praying to the Holy One because God’s Word has become a mere object of study. The Holy Bible has been reduced to the Study Bible. People remain in control of God and His Word.
But as the ghost story experience shows, until the object of our attention is understood as supernatural, utterly beyond us, and then overwhelms and grips us with the realization of our finitude (as the 9-11 terrorist attacks once did), that is, until the object becomes subject, the Holy One, the Holy Bible, and prayer become reduced to the mundane. And people’s unsatisfied appetites for the holy lead them to the next scary movie.