Sometimes during a noisy party
or a particularly stressful day, we automatically want to sneak away from all
the noise and stimulation to somewhere quiet; away from the crowd. It is just
our brain trying to protect itself from overstimulation. Away from the crowd
reduces stress on the brain, allowing it space to think and listen to itself.
This is the basis of the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude. It is
time away from the noisy busy world to a place where we can hear ourselves
think. It is also during silence and solitude that we can hear God’s voice. It
does not matter if you are an extrovert or introvert, we all need times of
silence and solitude.
It has been pointed out by some
writers that ‘silence and solitude’ do not appear in the bible. That is an
interesting observation because Jesus Christ’s ministry are matched by
continual practice, not only of prayer itself but of intense times of silence
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness
for forty days (Matt. 4:1).
He "withdrew ...to a deserted place by
himself after learning of the beheading of his dear friend and cousin, John the
Baptizer (Matt. 14:13).
Following the incredible experience of feeding
the five thousand, Jesus immediately "went up the mountain by himself to
pray" (Matt. 14:23).
When the disciples were exhausted from the
demands of ministry, Jesus told them, "Come away to a deserted place all
by yourselves and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).
After Jesus' healing of a leper Luke seems to be
describing more of a habitual practice than a single incident when he notes
that Jesus "would withdraw to deserted places and pray" (Luke 5:16).
The gospels record that our Lord
uses this spiritual discipline in conjunction with the spiritual disciplines of
prayer and service. It also shows that Jesus is familiar with and uses this
discipline frequently enough that it is recorded by the evangelist in an
Recognizing the importance of
this spiritual discipline, the Desert Fathers and Mothers left their homes and
families to stay alone in the deserts of Egypt and Syria. This later gave rise
to the Monastic movement where thousands of monasteries and convents were
built. The monasteries and convent are places where the monks and nuns can
spent their time in silence, solitude and prayer.
How do we practice this
discipline in our busy hectic and noisy lifestyles? Many of us do not have
chunks of time to be silent and to be in solitude. This is a misconception
about the discipline of silent and solitude. We do not need to climb to the top
of a mountain or move deep into the desert though it helps. We do not need
large amount of time. Though we can practice this spiritual discipline for
days, we can also do it for a few hours or a few minutes. David’s comfort is in
delighting in the Lord by trusting, waiting, and being still before him (Psalm
37:1-11). Silence is not empty but filled with the Lord’s presence.
a quiet place where you are safe and will not be disturb
your eyes and calm your mind and body by slow deep breathing
a peaceful scene in your mind – it may be a beautiful lake you have visited, a
photo you remember, or a simple room with two chairs
to God for his protection and invite Jesus to join you at this peaceful place.
for Jesus to join you there. Feel his presence in the calmness. You may want to
talk to him or just sit with him in silence.
may also use this time to meditate on a bible passage, praying, singing worshipful
songs or writing in your journal
it is time to leave, leave the peaceful scene (which is a special place in your
heart) slowly ( a timer app on your mobile is useful)
and gives thanks.
open your eyes.
It is good to initially try this discipline for about 10
minutes. Then when you are comfortable, you may take longer periods. You can
also do it a few times a day. I suggest a 20 minutes at lunch time and 20
minutes after dinner. You can combine this with your prayer time or Bible study
time. It may be awkward at first. However, when you continue to practice it, it
will become very easy to do. You will easily enter the quiet place of encounter
with Jesus. A skilled practitioner of this spiritual discipline shared that she
can practice silence and solitude while packed like sardines with other people
on her daily bus commute to and fro from work every day.
Another way to experience the benefits of silence and solitude
is to take a silent retreat. A silent retreat is not as scary and daunting as
most people think. You do not have to jump into a 30 days silent retreat. Start
with a retreat that offers half a day for silence and solitude. Then gradually
increase the time to a full day, two days or more. It will usually takes about
two days before your mind and body relaxes enough to fully enjoy the
experience. However this does that mean that shorter silent retreats are not
useful. Any intentional attempt to distant ourselves from the world to spend
with God is always useful.
Labels: Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, spiritual formation communities