Alone with God
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And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.—Mark 1:351
We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally; to be alone with Him—not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything—to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation.—Mother Teresa2
You cannot do the Master’s work without the Master’s power, and to get it, you must spend time with the Master. Jesus said that only one thing is needful: to sit at His feet and learn of Him. Those who have chosen this good part, it shall never be taken away from them.3 If you’re too busy to get alone with Jesus and pray, you’re too busy!
So take time to be holy—wholly His. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God. In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”4—David Brandt Berg
These souvenirs of solitude are the love story of my walk with God. Revisiting the lost silences of the past, I remember and record the intimate moments when I allowed the Lord to lure me into the wilderness and speak to my heart. In chaste deserts, remote hermitages, and soaring 747s, the word of Jeremiah has become my own: “O Yahweh, you seduced me, and I let myself be seduced: you were too strong for me, and you triumphed” (20:7). If the Christian commitment were not an affair of the heart, I know I could not endure it. The real memorabilia of my life are these souvenirs of solitude, these moments … with the Bridegroom to whom I belong.—Brennan Manning5
Solitude begins with a time and a place for God, and God alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that God is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give God our undivided attention.—Henri J.M. Nouwen6
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.—Matthew 6:5–67
Noted the physician Luke, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
As Dallas Willard observed, these times of chosen solitude, deprived of noise and activity and friendly interaction, were not enfeebling, dull, or even lonely for Jesus. They were “the primary place of strength …” From these moments flowed the very content and character of Jesus’ communication. In those quiet hours, he cultivated the insight and wisdom that could disrobe convention and strip false assumptions naked. Piercing insight. Rock-solid wisdom. Real vision.
No wonder everyone was looking for him. …
Those who have embarked upon extended time alone, however, report back to us that the journey to the outskirts of solitude can be at least as significant today as it was for the greats of the past.
First, this time alone—both in short and longer doses—allows for refreshment.
Such experiences offer a deep, soul-rinsing rest not accessible among crowds or supplied by the buzz of entertainment. In these times, we reset our focus and renew our strength.
Jesus sought this renewal not only for himself, but also for his disciples. Observing the constant swirl of noise and crowds, questions and dust, he often urged, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” This invitation still stands today.
Second, meaningful time alone provides opportunities for focused prayer.
Solitude is not isolation. Far from it. For Jesus, time spent in prayer was nothing less than intimate conversation with the eternal God.—Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe8
Solitude is a place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world.—Henri J.M. Nouwen9
You will get a lot more done if you will spend more time in prayer, alone with God. You will get more instruction, insight, and inspiration from the Lord when you are alone and quiet than at any other time because He has your full attention and you can give Him the reverence that is His due. Even Jesus had to get up at the break of day, before His disciples, and find a quiet place to get alone with and hear from His Father.
You’re going to have to get quiet by yourself—somewhere, somehow, sometime—if you’re going to hear from the Lord. You can’t solve your problems on your own. You’ve got to be desperate for God’s solutions, and then you’ve got to stop everything else and listen.
(Prayer:) Help us, Jesus, to remember that we can’t go on without the heavenly vision that You give. We all need more quiet time alone with You, to nestle in Your arms and be refreshed and strengthened by Your Spirit, to have You and You alone to think about and pray about and to get close to, without any other distractions.—David Brandt Berg
“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us.” “Be still and know that I am God.”
In these crisis days there is such a multiplicity of cares and burdens and so many things to be kept up with, and the mad rush. With all the excitement, it seems like we have a greater need than ever before for this kind of divine stillness, that God can just bathe our souls with quietness. It is only when your mind is quiet and serene and there is a poise of spirit that you can look to God to help you, and you hear the still, small voice, or you come to know God, as the Word has said here: “Be still and know that I am God.”
So many people have got the idea that stillness is a sort of controlled tension, a practiced poise, and that you can compress anxiety in some way. Well, if you do, sometimes you are just inwardly a boiling cauldron, though you are seemingly calm on the surface. But that isn’t the kind of stillness we are talking about. The stillness of God isn’t passivity. But it brings about the greatest clarity of thought and intensity of your desire Godward. It is in that stillness that you come to know God’s will, and His plan for your life.
I know from experience, as I have often told you, that divine stillness often comes through trials and testings. You say, “Oh, how can that be?” Oh yes! It subdues the soul, and suffering humbles the spirit.
Are you going through a testing right now? Dearly beloved, you just get quiet and be still before the Lord and He will tell you why. Sometimes I know there are times when He doesn’t tell why, but as a rule He will tell you why.
He will show you how to get all the sweetness out of it, and how to look to Him in such a way that He will teach you wonderful lessons from it. But you’ve got to get quiet. There has to be that sweet, still devotion, and then He can speak to your heart.
The peace of God must quiet minds and rest hearts. Put our hand in the hand of God like a little child and let Him lead us out into the bright sunshine of His love. To you in the hospital, or at home in beds of sickness, or the troubled businessman riding in his car: God help you to trust Him. Be still. Let Him do the work for you. Perfect faith will bring the victory. Put your hand in God’s hands. God will work it out. Amen.—Virginia Brandt Berg10
Published on Anchor March 2013. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music by Michael Dooley.
2 In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers (Novato, California: New World Library, 2010).
3 Luke 10:39–42.
4 Psalm 46:10; Isaiah 30:15.
5 Souvenirs of Solitude: Finding Rest in Abba’s Embrace (NavPress; 2nd edition, 2009).
6 Making All Things New and Other Classics (Zondervan, 2000).
8 The Revolutionary Communicator (Lake Mary, Florida: Relevant Books, 2004).
9 The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry (New York: HarperOne, 1991).