First, let me apologize for my delay in writing the second half of this post. I have been quite sick in my body (flu/shingles), yet joyful, peaceful, and satisfied in my spirit. In other words, my light and momentary affliction has not kept me from communion with my God and I must say that it makes me very happy.
I ended my last post by noting that Jesus found strength in rising early to be with His Father, by getting alone in a solitary place, He prayed. This is where I want to pick up on my thoughts about prayer.
Please remember that I am on a journey and do not have all the answers as it pertains to the depths of this topic. I am but a traveler on the road of discovery to a place that my spiritual heroes have talked about, but I have never been. I think I am possibly learning what it means to walk with Him and really be with Him; to be spiritual and not just religious. I think I understand what John Michael Talbot meant when he penned the words, “God alone is enough, whoever has God wants for nothing at all.”
Today I would like to try to explain “solitude”, or at least what it means to me in the midst of my busy life. The dictionary defines solitude as the state or situation of being alone. For many of us in our hectic lives, being alone seems like only a dream or a wish, but how many of us can say that we are busier than Jesus was when He walked the earth? I daresay that none of us can even begin to compare our lives with the life of our Lord, yet He got alone and there He met with His Father.
If our excuse for not getting alone with God is the “demands” on our life, then maybe it’s time for us to take a good look at that which is taking priority over satisfying the One Who’s name is “Jealous”.
For some, the thought of being alone seems boring, lonely or even weird, but, the kind of “being alone” that I’m talking about is far from boring and being lonely and is certainly not weird. It is so delightful that words cannot express what I feel. You see, solitude is not really being alone at all; it’s being with Him and once we understand this kind of aloneness, we will desire it over any party or social gathering. For to be alone with God is to never be alone at all. It is, as I have said, at times, breathtaking, convicting, gentle, surprising and peaceful, but never lonely.
In his book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, Brother Lawrence wrote about solitude, “I drive away from my mind everything capable of spoiling the sense of the presence of God.... I just make it my business to persevere in His holy presence... My soul has had an habitual, silent, secret conversation with God.”
There in solitude I find Him and He is all I really need. I used to think that my greatest ambition should be to do more for God; to be a great husband, dad, preacher or a great missionary, but I am finding that anything good that comes from my life is simply a byproduct from my time alone with Him. To do anything, even in ministry, apart from “abiding in The Vine” is by all means a futile attempt to appear spiritual apart from true spirituality.
I have preached in many churches, spoke at many conferences and sat with scores of people throughout North America. There, I have found many who seem to be extremely impressed with certain well known preachers, popular books, cool programs, courageous missionaries, anointed worship bands and impressive worship centers, but very few have told me how amazing God is. NO ONE, that I can remember, has ever raved about their churches prayer meetings or how wonderful it is to get alone with God and breath in His beauty… no one.
It was Leonard Ravenhill who said, “No man - I don't care how colossal his intellect - No man is greater than his prayer life.” He also said, “The true church lives and moves and has its being in prayer.”
So what’s our problem? Why isn’t being alone with God enough for us? This has been part of the journey I am on. I’m trying to discover what it was that captivated our spiritual fathers and mothers, for the only thing that they seemed to rave about was God Himself. They spoke of solitude, contemplation, and simply being alone with Him. Yes, even in the midst of their busy lives they found the secret of being alone with Him and it was the very thing that marked them and set them apart in their generation. Please don’t misunderstand, they weren’t seeking to stand out, they simply wanted Him and He was found to be all they needed and wanted. He was their All and all they did was for Him and because of Him. Their greatness had little to do with them. The greatness the rest of the world witnessed through them was God Himself being spilled from a clay pot. I used to want to be like them because of what they did, but now I want to be like them because of who they were and Who they knew.
In my times of prayer (petition, solitude and contemplation) I am learning some things about myself that are a bit uncomfortable for me to share, but I will humbly do so, in hopes to make you thirsty to pray yourself. I have learned that in prayer, I talk too much, listen too little and have found that I am not near as deep as I thought I was. That’s always exciting to learn; in ministry for twenty years, with shelves filled with books, several passports filled with visas from over 60 missionary adventures and I’m just learning that I’m not very deep, or at least as deep as I thought I was? But discovering this is not at all condemning or belittling, but rather it is a hopeful and exciting revelation. Prayer is teaching me that depth is not measured in what we do or how much we know, but rather, Who we know. It’s not so much about knowing as understanding and not as much about doing as in being… being alone with Him.
Next week I would like to share with you some of the benefits I’m gaining from prayer and being alone with Him. For now I would like to share a few “tips” about finding “moments” alone with God. No matter how busy I have been, I am finding that these simple (yet not easy) exercises are helping me:
1) Find a quiet place to be alone.
2) After you have worshipped Him and voiced your petitions, be quiet.
3) Do your best to drive out all the clutter and demands of you life and time.
4) Be still.
5) Do that for twenty to thirty minutes in the morning.
6) Throughout the day, simply whisper his name.
7) Spontaneously declare your love to Him.
8) Look for a “moment” to be alone with Him. Secret places to be alone, even for a minute or two (please not the bathroom).
9) Before you close your eyes at night, bid Him “good night”, the same way you would your family or close friends.
10)Remember He likes that, because He loves you. He is jealous for you.
These are just some ways that I am learning how to “get alone” with Him. As a person in full-time ministry, I also take all day on Tuesday (from 8am – 5pm) to be in prayer (not work). I need this time each week to be with Him and learn what He is asking of me. It has become the best day of the week for me.
I hope this has encouraged you in some small way and that it makes you hungry to be alone with God. He desires to be with you… in silence… even for a moment!