Practicing Solitude and Prayer

iStock-170616840Practicing Solitude and Prayer


Countless people own noise-canceling headphones or earbuds today.

Why? Because the world is LOUD!

According to Lucid Audio, “Dr. Amar Bose invented the first truly noise-canceling headset in 1979. Originally invented to help airplane pilots concentrate during flights, this technology was not commercially available until the Bose Quiet Comfort set in 2000.”

If you missed it, what once was invented to help pilots tune out the loud engine sounds, we use today in everyday life.

But here’s the rub – most of us aren’t that comfortable with silence, yet we crave it.

In 2020, “the average American had access to more than ten connected devices in their household.”

In other words, most Americans are constantly connected and tuned in. We are never left alone with our thoughts. We are continuously receiving texts and notifications. Our televisions and radios provide constant background noise.

Many people find that they cannot simply sit and be quiet. It’s uncomfortable because when the external noises disappear, we’re forced to face what is happening internally.

For those of you who are Christians, you’ve likely heard people refer to their “daily quiet time.” This is just a Christian way of saying, “Spending time in solitude and prayer with God.”

But if we’re being honest, even Christians struggle with actually being alone, still, and quiet.

If we want to grow stronger in our faith, it requires practicing solitude and prayer regularly.

Let’s talk about why.

Filled With Distractions

According to The Guardian, “In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour.”

The same article also reports, “[In 2018] People checked their smartphones on average every 12 minutes during their waking hours, with 71% saying they never turn their phone off and 40% saying they check them within five minutes of waking.”

It’s not just one thing that is distracting us. We are connected to multiple devices at once and engage in media multitasking.

Dr. Foehr explains, “One study estimates that for adults, almost a quarter of media use (23.7%) is spent with more than one medium (Papper et al., 2004).”

That’s why my friend Jennifer started going to the movies alone.

She realized that if she were sitting at home, she wouldn’t give the movie (a movie she really wanted to see) her full attention. She would scroll through social media or text friends (also known as media multitasking) while watching the film. But, if she watched the movie in a venue where silence was expected, she would be more present and engaged.

Jennifer isn’t alone.

Our lives are filled with these types of distractions, and we know it’s unhealthy! Hence the popularity of noise-canceling headphones and silent retreats.

I’ve often said that the Devil won’t defeat us with direct destruction, but indirect distraction.

Still, we know we need times of peace and solitude, but we fear facing the quiet.

All the emotional unrest, fears, insecurities, relational wounds, and sins that you’ve left unaddressed come back to haunt you in silence.

This creates what Ruth Haley Barton called, “the push-pull phenomenon.” Your lack of solitude is pushing you to draw near to God, but everything emotionally that arises in solitude is pulling you away from drawing near to God.

We can’t stand to face it, so we just spend ourselves in a world of noise.

Solitude Is Not Loneliness or Isolation

In addition to worrying about the inner noise you are left to address when you turn off the external noise, some people also believe practicing solitude means embracing loneliness.

This is far from the truth.

Solitude is more than just being alone. In reality, we are anything but alone when we practice solitude.

Richard Foster said, “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.”

On a similar note, practicing solitude does not mean isolating yourself.

Wayne Cordeiro says, “Solitude is a chosen separation for refining the soul. Isolation is what you crave when you neglect the first.”

This is the place where most people feel their deepest connection to God, the place where He feels the most present.

Jesus Practiced Solitude Often

Jesus is our best example in practicing solitude and prayer.

We see throughout the gospels that Jesus had a regular rhythm of solitude and community, withdrawing to the quiet place and living among the crowds.

  • On Jesus’ first day on the job (Mark 1): “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him…”
  • After feeding 5,000 (Matthew 14): “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…”
  • After healing a leper (Luke 5): “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would often withdraw to desolate places and pray…”

Notice, Luke says this happened often for Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, it becomes apparent that the busier Jesus became, the more he would withdraw.

What Does Practicing Solitude Do for You?

Jesus understood that practicing solitude is important, which is why he practiced it and modeled it for us.

Your life in solitude creates space for prayer, rest, ministry preparation, guidance, and listening.

In solitude, we come home to God and ourselves to find freedom and stability. Solitude creates in us a “soul anchor” for the rest of our ordinary life.

How to Practice Solitude in a Noisy World

Solitude is the place where we find calm, peace, and communion with our Father. There isn’t a need for a lot of words; silence is welcomed and desired.

For those of you who struggle with solitude, there are a few things you can do to make it easier. Remember, you are practicing solitude. God’s not expecting a perfect performance.

  • Choose a space where you are free from distractions. You don’t need a designated prayer closet. Simply find a space with minimal distractions where you sit quietly and pray, or just think on the Lord.
  • Silence your phone. In today’s world, our biggest distraction is our phone. Acknowledge this problem and find a way to deal with it before you even begin your time of solitude and prayer, such as silencing it, turning off notifications, or leaving it in another room.
  • Set a timer. The first time you try practicing solitude, a minute may seem like ten minutes. That’s because you simply aren’t comfortable with solitude yet. To help you grow stronger in this area, set a timer for a certain increment of time you’d like to sit quietly, distraction-free, in God’s presence.
  • Pray and listen. Use this time of quiet to pray and listen to God.
  • Meditate on scripture. For those who are easily distracted, write down a Bible verse before your time of solitude and meditate on it during this time.