The spiritual discipline of silence and solitude has been on my mind a lot lately. On reason is because I have a newborn and a 15 month old (There is little to no silence in our house). Another reason is that I am becoming increasingly aware of just how noisy our culture is.
Whether it’s an ipod, radio, the T.V. on in the background, or traffic; we are surrounded by noise. Most of us aren’t bothered by it because we’re used to it. But the Bible says a lot about seasons of silence and how beneficial they are to our souls. Jesus himself modeled times of silence:
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, -Matthew 14:23
And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. -Luke 4:42
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. -Luke 5:16
Whether it was to pray to His Father or to rest after exhausting work, the Son of God valued time alone. So should we.
Let me clarify, here. I am not talking about your daily quiet times. They are important and every Christian should practice daily time in prayer and scripture. This is something deeper and less frequent; a mini-sabbatical if you will. It may be a day a month or every other month, or a weekend retreat alone. It is an extended time with you and Jesus.
So what do we do during these? Mark Driscoll has written a series of blog posts entitled Organizing a Day of Silence and Solitude. He gives some great tips of things you can do during these designated times. I’ve added some reflections on each suggestion:
1. Nothing: Some of you read this and think, “what a waste of time!” But to just sit an reflect on life can turn into a very humbling and worshipful experience.
2. Meditate on a short section of scripture: Think deeply on a verse or two. Take Psalm 1:1-2 for example:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
You would glean some good things from reading this once through. But there is so much truth packed in these two verses. To take each line and chew on it like a dog with a bone would be very beneficial.
3. Rest: You may just need to catch up on sleep. That’s ok. Our need for physical rest reminds us that we are finite beings.
4. Read long sections of scripture: Soak your mind in the word by reading through a book of the Bible in one sitting. While studying and meditating are necessary for spiritual renewal, so is reading straight through scripture. You get a big-picture view of God’s word when you do this.
5. Pray: Pray for your self, your family, lost friends, co-workers, confess your sins, evaluate your commitment to God’s mission. Pray while you walk, drive, exercise, etc.
6. Read a good book: I prefer something theological. But it could be anything. Get a book you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t because of busyness. Ask some of your book-nerd friends for some recommendations.
7. Journal: Write down your thoughts, notes on what you’ve read in scripture or books, your prayers. Map out some plans for the future. Maybe a family devotion plan. Maybe tips on how to be actively on mission. See Joe’s great post- How to Start a Spiritual Journal.
As Christians, we are meant to live in community with other believers. These times of silence and solitude are not our all-day every-day standard. But in our busy and noisy lives, we must be careful not to drown out the voice of God in our lives. These times are meant to prevent that. They are meant to revive and re-calibrate our spiritual lives.