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“I must secure more time for private devotions. I have been living far too public for me. The shortening of devotions starves the soul, it grows lean and faint. I have been keeping too late hours.” – William Wilberforce
“And in the morning very early, Jesus arose and went out to a solitary place, and there prayed.” Mark 1:35
I recently wrote these words in an Adventure Blog post (9/27/2018): “Solitude is one of the most basic and important practices of the Christian faith. And one of the most uncommon practices of the Christian faith.” We so easily fall victim to the enemies of our faith described by Richard Foster; hurry, noise, and crowds. With little or no time spent in silence and solitude, the voice of our God may escape our notice for days, even months on end. While this will most assuredly stunt our spiritual development, that is not the most significant tragedy of a life devoid of significant solitude and silence. The most significant tragedy is that we are not experiencing the conversational communion and deep intimacy of our union with Christ Jesus.
Union with our God is the reason for which we were created, and the reason our God sent His Son to die for our sins in our place. The atonement is intended to bring as many people as possible back to a union relationship with God the Father, a relationship of oneness at every level of existence. The pace, clutter, pressure, and clamor of our modern living is often stifling to that union relationship. We need to get into solitude and silence – and fairly often – if we would order our lives according to our oneness with our God.
Following are some practical steps I am taking to include solitude in my life on a regular basis, a sort of “homemade solitude recipe.”
- I prioritize time for solitude and silence daily, if possible. This is most often in the morning and includes 45 to 75 minutes of time devoted to study of the word, conversational prayer with my God, journaling, and meditating on what He is saying. Tools for this include a Bible, journal, the devotional classic “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, and a note pad on which I can write practical directions from the Holy spirit for that day or week. And coffee.
- To facilitate this morning time, I try to start the day without any digital connection (except to check the weather as weather dictates the clothing on the northern plains). The first thing done upon waking is to begin the conversation with my God; “Good morning, Lord. What do you have for me this morning?” or something like that. I want to start my day in quiet and in conversational communion with Him.
- As a lifestyle choice, I live my life largely devoid of noise-based entertainment. No radio playing, no clock radio alarm, and very little music on the stereo – less than once per week. There is no TV in my house ever – hasn’t been since college (at the end of the last ice age). This by itself does not make me more spiritual, but it does eliminate much of the distraction Foster spoke of in his warning. The quiet that has come from these choices has provided room for conversational communion with the Holy Spirit while doing the normal business of living in my house.
Admission time: what is an effective strategy to distract me from the solitude of life lived consciously in the presence of God is digital social media. I have to work to limit my time on Face Book, news feeds, and dealing with emails. It is my biggest area of struggle and my biggest distraction.
- Walking and biking are my preferred modes of transportation when navigating my northern plains community – going to the bank, store, or meetings. Phone in the pocket, no ear buds, and lots of time to talk with and listen to my God. I often carry a note book to record what He says to me because I may not remember it later. This became a part of my routine in the last year of college, walking in the evenings to be alone with my God and away from the dorms. This is a practice I have maintained even in the winters here, but usually draw the line at going out if the temp is below -150 F. I used to call these “walkie-talkies.” Yeah, kinda corny.
- Driving time is great solitude time if your car radio is broken and you leave the MP3 player turned off. I am not sure the radios in the cars work – they are never on. Talking to God and listening for His voice works well while driving, although the writing down what He says is a little tricky. I have been known to pull over to write messages from time to time.
“We hear it said that a man will suffer in his life is he does not pray; I question it. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God within him, which is nourished not by food but by prayer…Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished.” – Oswald Chambers
In the next post, the strategies I use for more significant time in solitude will be explored.