The practice of solitude is one of my spiritual weak points, and could be the most neglected spiritual discipline in the church today. But may well be the most needed in our fast-paced, interconnected, socially-networked culture. Jesus modeled it for us.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35 (ESV)
Please excuse all the quotes, but others have said it more eloquently than I ever could. Much of this comes from the excellent book, “Worshiping with the Church Fathers.” In it Christopher A. Hall writes: “…the discipline of desert spirituality-in it’s best moments-was a training ground for good works as the kingdom of the evil one-this present evil age-was invaded by the kingdom of God.”
Hall goes on to quote 20th century monk Thomas Merton:
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race….God Himself glorified in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake. I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate….My solitude, however, is not my own, for I see now how much it belongs to them-that I have a responsibility for it in their regard, not just my own. It is because I am one with them that I owe it to them to be alone.
Henri Nouwen, in his book “The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry” says this:
Often it seems that we who study or teach theology find ourselves entangled in such a complex network of discussions, debates, and arguments about God and “God-issues” that a simple conversation with God or a simple presence to God has become practically impossible. Our heightened verbal ability, which enables us to make many distinctions, has sometimes become a poor substitute for a single-minded commitment to the Word who is life…But when our words are no longer a reflection of the divine Word in and through whom the world has been created and redeemed, they lose their grounding and become as seductive and misleading as the words used to sell Geritol.
Many of you are familiar with Richard Foster’s, “Celebration of Discipline.” He writes, “Our adversary the devil majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us involved in muchness and manyness he will rest satisfied.”
“The arrows of the enemy cannot touch him who loves quiet. But he who moves in a crowd will be often wounded.” – Abba Nilus
So I ask you brothers and sisters, how can we minister to the crowds when we have not met with God in silence and stillness? Let us “go out” and find a “desolate place” in which to hear the voice of God.