Ever since my first experience of intentional solitude with God at age 41, I have come to know an increasing need to just be with Him.
Many years ago, God wanted to speak with a young boy named Samuel. But a word from God was rare in those days, we are told. After Samuel was instructed about how to listen to God, he heeded the words of Eli. Samuel responded to God’s voice, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
With that invitation from Samuel, God delivered His plan for Samuel’s life.
This is a great way to navigate your time alone with God! Regularly speak out loud, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And see what God does with that.
God is always trying to communicate with us. It’s just that we are not often in a place to really listen.
Silence and solitude. These are two spiritual disciplines that do not come naturally for a man or woman entrenched in ministry. After all, we have people to see, sermons to write, talks to give, meetings to attend, staff to lead, and strategic planning that needs our attention!
To stop talking and be away from people does not come naturally for most of us. Therefore, if we are to ever pursue silence and solitude with God, it must be routinely and intentionally scheduled into our calendar of activities.
Looking back on over 50 years of church ministry, I will tell you this – without adding times of “silence and solitude” to your routine, you will be at increased risk for blunders, ineffectiveness, and burn-out of the soul. And that’s just for starters!
When is the last time you have gotten totally away for 2-3 days – all by yourself – just to be with God? With no phone, no laptop, no work, no agenda, and no others with you . . . just an open heart, an empty journal for writing prayers and thoughts, a Bible, and perhaps some good spiritual music (my personal favorite is anything by Keith Green).
Not once has God ever failed to show up in my times with Him.
He has quieted my rushing thoughts, comforted my sense of loss, given me discernment about decisions, and handed me courage to displace fear . . . just to name a few! Of this I am sure – God wants you to make a date with Him.
Dates with God are specific times you plan to spend with Him and would not even think of cancelling – just as any date you may have made with that special someone in your life when you were courting.
So here’s a primer for your next date with God.
Schedule an overnight in your calendar (do not even think of changing it).
Inform those who need to know about your being gone.
Arrange for how emergencies will be handled while you are away.
Find a place where you can be totally alone – a hotel, a retreat center, camping, or a cottage. Anywhere except for your own house or office. Book it!
When you first arrive, don’t try to do anything. Just be. If it’s nice outside, perhaps take a nature walk and observe everything God brings to your attention.
Follow that time with a nice long nap.
Avoid the temptation to check your phone for calls or texts.
Start reading a passage from the Bible that you have found to be especially meaningful in the past. Read and journal your insights. Read and journal your prayers.
Take breaks for your cup of coffee, tea or other favorite refreshment. Eat healthy food, but not too much!
Immerse yourself in the presence of God. Allow Him to speak to you.
After a good night’s sleep, repeat Day One. Before you leave, journal a few of the main takeaways God has given you during your time away.
If you have never done a spiritual retreat before, I recommend you start with a day, a night, and the day that follows.
I encourage you to get out your calendar now. Find a time when you can do a time away with God. And book it!