Some people feel very uncomfortable when they are in a silent place on their own. All kinds of thoughts come to mind, and not all of them welcome or pleasant. Consequently, we all react differently to solitude. Some like to keep the radio or television on to alleviate the silence of a home or have a dog in the room, or even keep the i-phone in hand to spend the odd moment surfing the net. Basically, almost anything to avoid the thoughts that solitude might bring. There are times however when solitude provides us with the opportunity of listening to God and reflecting on his word to us. This week we are going to read of circumstances when individuals came close to God in solitude and found encouragement or direction as a result.
v 12. One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
This was an important moment in Jesus’ ministry. People had started to follow him and Jesus had already formed a friendship with Peter (Luke 5:3). But now the time had come to draw together a committed team of disciples to form a close-knit group to be taught and equipped for service. It was following this night of solitude on a mountainside, and prayer, that Jesus was able to invite these 12 men to be his special disciples.
Critical decision-making moments are just the time to pray and listen to God in solitude, free of the distractions that can send us in the wrong direction. Moving home, accepting a new job, and decisions about relationships are all the kind of moments that will have far-reaching consequences in our lives and are the times when it is good to be alone, quietly listening to anything that God might want to say to us. Of course, we will use all our mental and emotional faculties as well, but to experience God’s peace in the process adds a significant dimension to our decision-making. Many of us (not all of course!) find that solitude and silence make us more aware of God’s plan and purpose for our lives.
It is something however that needs to be practised; we will not get the benefits of it without giving time to practise it. Praying all night, as Jesus did, will not come easily unless we have practised and become comfortable in prayerful solitude for an hour! This kind of solitude is not forced on us by life’s circumstances but is deliberately chosen to deepen our experience of God and discover his purposes for our lives.
The challenge of this week is to choose and plan a period of aloneness and silence – however brief it might be – and use the time to focus on God to the exclusion of everything else.