Reading the Bible and daily prayer are practices most Christians do to get closer to God. But do you regularly practice other disciplines like solitude and silence? Sitting in silence and solitude are not practices regularly talked about in churches, but they can be incredible tools to grow you closer to God. If you’ve never intentionally practiced silence and solitude, it can feel very unnatural or even unsettling at first. But God longs for us to quiet our souls and cast our eyes and hearts toward him.
Here are ten steps to help you start having daily times of silence and solitude:
1. Start Small
If you are not used to having a regular quiet time, you may want to consider starting with a short period of time. Five minutes of quality time with the Lord is better than no time at all. If you feel intimidated by spending a long time in silence, shift your focus to a manageable amount of time.
Whatever time you decide, commit to practicing it consistently. Do whatever you can to continue that trend every week. This will increase your self-discipline and help you put your priorities in its proper place.
2. Establish Your Vision: What Is Your Goal for This Time?
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Without vision, the people cast off restraint.” Without vision in anything, people give up trying to improve. This goes for all aspects of spiritual growth, not just quiet time. Set a clear vision for your quiet reflection time. Like any goals, merely saying, “I want to have more solitude and silence in my life” won’t help. But a specific goal like, “I want to sit in stillness for fifteen minutes a day three times a week” is a smart goal because it is measurable, attainable and specific.
Whatever your vision is, write it down. Like the verses on stillness, place it somewhere where you will be reminded often. A written reminder solidifies your seriousness about it and will keep you motivated to reach your vision, even on the days you don’t feel like it.
Clear your mind. Empty yourself of anything that might distract you from focusing on God. You may have to do this before setting any timer or beginning your time of silence. Failing to prepare your mind might leave you frustrated and unproductive. For more help on clearing your mind, see my fifth and sixth point.
Although it may seem like silence is unproductive, it has many physical and mental health benefits. If God gives you his best, you can give him your best.
4. Set a Timer
If you find you are having trouble focusing, set a timer. This will help you keep your focus and know you only have to be quiet for whatever amount of time you set. This is a great way to set a small goal for this.
Small goals, when accomplished often, give way to accomplishing larger goals. In a month, you will be surprised to see how far you have come in your ability to remain quiet.
5. Make a To-Do List
I know this sounds odd, but if you, like me, get easily distracted, you may want to make a list of all the things you have to get done before you dedicate your time to being quiet.
6. Talk First, then Listen
You may think it’s counter-intuitive to talk first if the idea is to practice silence, but talking to God and presenting petitions and requests to him will help you to focus because you will be able to empty your mind of everything you need to say. Then you can ask God to speak to you about anything he wants to speak to you about.
God wants our fellowship. It’s ok if you take the time to get off your mind what’s weighing the heaviest. Having a quiet time means balancing talking with listening as best as you can. But some days you will need to talk, and other days, you won’t have anything to say. Quiet time isn’t about balancing an imaginary scale, but about spending time with God.
7. Know the Word
One of the biggest misconceptions about having a quiet time is that it is an option, not a requirement. But Scripture says Jesus, “went alone to solitary places to pray (Mark 1:35),” and when we are scared we should, “cast our cares on Him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).” We are also told to “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6.)
Knowing the word is so important in starting a quiet time because it reiterates how important it is. When we understand that to become like Jesus we need to take time to pray and commune with our father, our quiet time becomes more of a routine but also make us more like Jesus.
8. Write it Down
One of Satan’s biggest tools is to make us too busy to spend time with God. If he can’t ensnare us in grievous sin, he’ll entangle us in a lesser one—and being too busy to spend time with him takes our focus off of God and onto ourselves.
Make a point to carve out specific time to spend in stillness. Write it in a calendar and put it in your phone so your phone reminds you of your commitment if you need it. Whatever you choose to do, make a commitment to be as consistent as possible.
9. Be Intentional
It sounds simplistic but being intentional is a great way to spend time in consistent quiet time with God. Intentional by definition means to “be deliberate, to do on purpose.” God honors anything we do with a purpose in mind. When we set aside time to meet with him, he will be faithful to meet with us too.
Setting a timer and making a to-do list are all manifestations of our intentionality, but to truly be intentional, our hearts must be motivated. Make sure your heart is in the right place. Confess any sin that might be inhibiting you from spending the time you should.
For those who do practice a regular routine but need something new to do, try meditation. Meditation often gets a bad reputation due to the Eastern origins of the practice, but did you know the bible talks about meditation and its importance in our lives: Joshua 1:8: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Mediation helps us to keep verses we know in our heads close to our hearts. It also promises that as we allow our minds to settle on Scripture and not flooding it with other things that can make us fall into sin, God promises we will be prosperous and successful. As you read the Word, ask the Lord if he wants to speak to you through any verses. When those verses pop out at you, repeat them in your head throughout the day.
To help you recall it, write it down and place it somewhere you frequent often. Repeat it over and over. Ask God to reveal something new about the verse. Allow your mind to unpack the verse for any new revelations you may not have known about the verse before. Allow God to speak to you through his Word. Then when you spend time in silence and solitude, you will have God’s word to ponder and reflect on.
Like any discipline, silence and solitude require dedication, motivation and intentionality. But the payout is worth it. Start small, set specific goals, and bear in mind the reward you will receive physically, emotionally, and mentally. Not only that, but the best reward you will receive will be the closeness you feel to the savior. And that’s the best thing you can do for yourself.
Image Credit: Unsplash/candice-picard
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.