Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
Matthew 14: 22-23
Sometimes prayer is a kind of solitude. It is allowing ourselves to be alone with God. According to the Gospels, Jesus went out of his way to find solitude. Sometimes he got up before dawn, sometimes he sent his disciples and the crowds away in the middle of a day of teaching and healing. Many of us find it difficult to make solitude this kind of priority. Getting up early, or saying ‘no’ to someone in need, or taking a break from working in order to have time alone with God, all of this feels challenging.
Our difficulties with solitude may be in part because we find our sense of value in doing and tasking–rather than in rest. It may be because we tend to under value the gifts that solitude offers. It may be because it is hard to say ‘no’ to others. It may be because we tend to avoid facing ourselves–our feelings, our failings, our needs–and we expect that solitude might allow these things to surface.
Even if we do finally arrive at a time and a place for solitude we may notice that we still have a huge crowd of people in our heads–a kind of inner chorus that intrudes on our solitude. Sometimes these inner chorus members are our harshest and least grace-full critics. It is possible to sit alone in a quiet room and still be consumed with this kind of inner distraction. And sadly, it can keep us from being present to God and to knowing God as present with us.
One of the gifts of solitude is the clarity it brings about these inner voices and the opportunities it provides to allow the Spirit to help us replace the voices that shame and discourage us with the Voice of love and grace.
The prayer of solitude is time alone with God in which we open our hearts and minds to God, rest in God’s love for us and seek God’s loving will for our lives. It is a time to listen, to rest in God, to return to the Source of our life.
Sometimes our times of solitude will come in twenty minute chunks of time. Sometimes we might enjoy the luxury of a weekend retreat. Sometimes solitude might be those first waking moments before we get out of bed in the morning, or those last moments before we sleep. Or those minutes alone in our car. Where ever and whenever we find our times of solitude, may we seek and enjoy the rich gifts that times of solitude with God offers us.
I long for time alone with You.
But so much gets in the way.
The necessary things.
And the chorus in my head.
Help me to let go of the chorus members
who are not able to sing in the key of Grace.
Help me to find new chorus members
whose silence can be trusted to be respectful silence.
When you say it is the time for silence
–respectful grace-full silence–
I want the choir to follow your lead.
You, God, be the director of my inner choir.
Help me to say “yes” to times alone with you
so that I may enjoy the rich gift
of resting in your loving Presence.
When and where can you carve out time to be alone with God? What barriers are you aware of?
Ask God to help you find times of solitude. Plan times of solitude into your schedule.
As soon as you can, spend some time in solitude with God.