Have you ever experienced a time when the presence of God seems noticeably absent? There is a void of relationship even when your normal devotional disciplines remain constant and intact? You may be facing difficulty, or just as likely a season of tremendous success, yet there exists an illusive distance from the vibrant intimacy you once shared with God.
A number of years ago I found myself in a place of apparent “God-absence.” With a usual share of challenges and victories in life and ministry, I had grown accustom to a level of success initiated and sustained by grace. Unexplainably, deep in my soul something was missing. The closeness and familiarity with God had faded.
Intimacy with God has always been a priority for me. As a young believer I chose Psalms 27:4 as my life verse,
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all they days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to him in his temple.Psalms 27:4
To become a person of his presence has been a lifetime goal, but my current experience lacked what I desired most—God Himself.
During this rather shadowy time in my spiritual walk I was introduced to the life giving spiritual practice of “solitude and silence.” In truth, it was more of a dare than an introduction. The dare, from an spiritual leader, went something like this, “I challenge you to spend twenty minutes in solitude and silence with God each day - but you won’t do it!”
I wish I could say that setting aside a time with God in silence came easy. Between sleepiness, “psychotic” mind wandering, and the “painfully” slow passage of time, I was ready to give up. Maybe these disciplines worked a long time ago for monks but I’m a contemporary, Spirit-filled believer! Finally, after an especially frustrating attempt at twenty minutes of solitude, I broke the silence: “God this is NOT working for me, it’s just a waste of time!” His gentle whisper entered the already interrupted space, “Really? It’s working just fine for me!” “If you will consistently invest in this time with Me, I will transform your life.” What a breakthrough moment! God actually gets something from my presence because it invites His presence to change my soul in ways that only my silence can allow.
Most Christ-followers, like me, have been well schooled in the transactional prayer activities of petition, intercession, and spiritual warfare. Less familiar transcendent forms of prayer such as reflection, solitude, and silence are often overlooked. However, a reliance on language to create spiritual depth cannot substitute for the intimate knowledge of God found in the simplicity of silence. Nor can many words coerce answers. God’s invitation is to wait with Him, not for Him. Verbal efforts to solve life’s complexities will diminish as our desire to “dwell…and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” restores the mystery of relationship.
Here comes the challenge: “I invite you to spend consistent time in solitude and silence with God.”
TRY THESE BASIC TIPS
Begin with five minutes and work on consistency.
Think convenient, a special chair or more private area in your home. A place that will draw you in.
You are not indispensable; the world can go on without you for a few minutes.
Reflect and listen; what God shares might surprise you.
A simple exercise: Reflect and rest on each phrase of Psalm 46:10.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
“Be still and know that I am…”
“Be still and know…”
Welcome to the mystery of silence and solitude.
Larry is the Leadership Health Coordinator and also a pastor with the Foursquare denomination. He has been in leadership for 20+ years as he planted and pastored New Hope Foursquare Church in Salem, OR. Larry is devoted to mentorship, spiritual and practical care, and is characterized by loving leadership.