I’d been running a million miles an hour for months and my tank was dangerously close to empty. Work had been busy and stressful. The demands at home intense, leaving me short on patience with the kids and my husband. I hadn’t stepped into silence and solitude in months.
As my birthday approached, I knew what I wanted – what I needed more than anything. I wanted a weekend retreat – alone. A strange request for my 40th birthday, but a few days of peace and quiet began to call out to my heart.
My sweet husband, probably relieved he didn’t need to plan a 40th birthday party, sent me off for a long weekend on my own. I booked a room at the retreat center our church had visited often as I was growing up and drove off excited for a few days alone.
This retreat wasn’t an escape from the demands and stresses of my life. It was running into God’s arms, to spend some quality time with the Father to be refreshed and lean into his guidance for my life.
Silence and Solitude are Essential Spiritual Disciplines
The most fundamental and essential of the spiritual disciplines are silence and solitude. These are often practiced together as silent time alone with God, they can also be used independently. You may practice silence with a group, or solitude that isn’t silent.
Both silence and solitude are foundational to keep you connected to God, hearing his voice in your heart, and allowing God to do his work in your life.
Silence Quiets the Noise of the World to Hear God
Silence is the practice of quieting all the noise in your life to just be with God and listen. It’s stepping away from all the distractions and opening yourself to God. No music, no reading – just silence and listening.
It’s not easy to find silence in our world today. Noise surrounds us – traffic, TV, internet, music, family, and friends. Even when we’re alone, silence can be a challenge. Yet, how can you expect to hear God’s whisper if your ears are filled with other sounds?
Even Jesus needed to find silence to stay connected to his Father. He was constantly surrounded by people – his disciples, his followers, his critics. So, he often stepped away to quiet places to pray. He needed to get away from all the people and the noises so he could focus on listening to God in prayer.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”Luke 5:16 (NIV)
Spending time in silence with God can be a challenge. It’s uncomfortable to sit still in silence. You may not feel like it’s working or worth the effort. In the silence, though, is when God can work deeply in your heart.
The more time you spend in silence with God, the more you’ll tune into his voice and allow him to direct your heart.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
How to Practice Silence
- Start with 10 minutes. Set a timer and sit in the silence. Don’t try to fill it with words, instead just sit in the silence and open your heart and mind to God.
- Turn off the car radio and drive in silence.
- Go for a run or exercise without any music.
- Get up early in the morning, before the rest of your house awakes and spend that quiet early morning time with God.
- In the silence, try the listening prayer or Christian meditation.
Don’t worry if you don’t hear something each time you go into silence. It’s a practice of giving your time and attention to God. Sit at the feet of Jesus and just listen. Sometimes you may walk away with something felt or heard, other times it may come to you later, or you may hear nothing at all. But the time spent in silence with God is restorative and helps to deepen your relationship with Him.
Solitude is Quality Time with God
Solitude is stepping away from other people to just spend time alone with God.
It’s important to get away from your world and have some uninterrupted time with God, just you and him alone together. In this time you may practice other spiritual disciplines, such as study, and prayer.
It can help break you free from the constant entertainment and distraction of the world with always-connected mobile devices, TV, radio, over-scheduled activities, and the feeling of needing to be and do all the things.
Jesus not only needed some silence in his life, he needed solitude. He often rose early, before everyone else, and went off to a quiet place to be alone in his prayers.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”Mark 1:35 (NIV)
Practicing solitude and spending time alone in God’s presence will lead you to let go of your own self and be open and vulnerable with God. It’s not always an easy spiritual practice, in fact, it may often feel lonely and confusing. Solitude is where God does his deep heart with you, though.
As Jesus began to step into his ministry, he was first sent out into the wilderness, alone with God for 40 days. He was tested and tempted, in a dark, trying, wilderness season of his life. Yet, God and the angels were always right by his side.
“At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”Mark 1:12-13 (NIV)
Paul also experienced this wilderness season of solitude prior to starting his ministry. We’re told in Galatians 1:11-20 that Paul immediately went to the desert of Arabia after his conversion. He spent three years in his own wilderness season, before going to the other disciples and stepping into his ministry. We can only imagine what wrestling he must have done with God and what deep transforming work God must have done with him.
How to Practice Solitude
- Set aside 15 minutes to be alone with God. Maybe early in the morning or late at night.
- Go on a walk alone, without music, and just spend time with God in his creation.
- Carve out several hours of a day to be alone with God. You may choose to read the Bible or. a devotion, pray, or journal.
- Set aside time throughout the year for a ‘retreat’ with God – for a few hours, a whole day, or longer. Spend quiet time being refilled by God, listening and being in his presence.
“In quiet and silence the faithful soul makes progress, the hidden meanings of the Scriptures become clear, and the eyes weep with devotion every night. Even as one learns to grow still, he draws closer to the Creator and farther from the hurly-burly of the world. As one divests himself of friends and acquaintances, he is visited by God and his holy angels.”~Thomas a Kempis (translation by William Griffin)
How Will You Practice Silence and Solitude?
Will you carve out some time to spend with God? Not just in the midst of your daily activities, not just at church, not just when it’s convenient.
Will you find time to be with God alone, in silence?
Will you open up your heart to allow God to do his deep work in your heart?
Learn more about Spiritual Disciplines:
Interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines? Want to find another one that may be a better fit for you right now? Click here for more spiritual disciplines and how to use them to grow your faith. Also, below are some books I highly recommend on the spiritual disciplines. (These are affiliate links.)