“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into a 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. When evening came, he was there alone,…” (Matthew 24: 22, 23 New International Version)
Jesus was alone, but not lonely. He knew his desperate need to be away from his disciples, the crowds, his enemies, his teaching, his healing. He actively sent everyone away and walked up to a place of solitude to spend time alone with his Father.
As Mrs. Charles E. Cowman wrote in her 1939 devotional, “The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.” (Streams in the Desert)
In my life in suburban America, I don’t often hike a mountain to commune with God, yet, daily places of solitude are readily available to me – spaces and times when family and work do not distract. I have learned to stop moving, stop doing and sit still, but once I am physically alone and paused, I still have the challenge of sending away another type of “crowd” – my thoughts.
Inevitably, I come to that outward silence – no people, no pets, no television, no computer – and my inward noise starts up. My brain whirls with things I must do, worries about unsolved problems, and even thoughts of self-doubt or self-recrimination. I certainly can’t hear the voice of my Heavenly Father with all that mental company, so I am learning to forcibly put aside these distractions – scribbling my “to do” thoughts down on a scratch pad I keep next to me and off-loading the worries and doubts as quickly as possible in prayer. Then I listen.
The wonder of silence inside and out!
“I love the lonely creative hours with God!” Madame Guyon
My most dramatic listening moment came many years ago when I was faced with a fork in the road – stay in the U.S. or move to Israel. When I finally stopped asking for advice, talking about the decision, and thinking in circles about the pros and cons, I waited a long time with quieted mind and surroundings. God spoke audibly to me. “Stay!” he said, and I obeyed and discovered the truth of poet Robert Frost’s words:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Andrew Murray pleads with us:
“Would that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God. Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!” (excerpt from Streams in the Dessert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)
God and me.
Me and God.