Yesterday I spent six hours up in the mountains here in Wales. And while it was a welcome change of scenery, it wasn’t a day off. It was a day I had set aside specifically to be alone with God.
Part of being a disciple of Jesus includes spending time alone with Him in prayer and in reading the Bible. This intimate time alone with God flows throughout the Psalms and it’s the practice of the prophets. Crucially, we see time alone with God modelled by Jesus. This was His practice even in the busiest moments of his ministry—see Mark 1:35-37 for a good example.
Those of us engaged in pioneering, cross-cultural work acutely feel the need for this daily rhythm. One of our partners, Greater Europe Mission, encourages us to take one day every couple of months away for spiritual retreat and encourages us to clear our schedules for them. Our leaders in GEM recognise that we need prolonged time alone with God at regular intervals.
Again, this isn’t meant to be a day off or a mental health day, as good as those things are. It’s meant to be a time where we unplug, remove distractions, and spend time alone with God. In busy seasons, I’ve often found that I have questions for God that are piling up in my mind. A full day of spiritual retreat gives me space to bring those questions to Him and sit with Him and listen.
Sometimes these retreat days are hard. Some personalities thrive in solitude, while others find it stifling or uncomfortable. Sometimes we’re not always happy with what God reveals to us, especially if it’s our flaws and mistakes that are highlighted. People with children sometimes struggle for space and time alone with God. As a team and church, we work together to provide this space for each other.
Regardless of personality, inclination, or stage of life, we think that spending days alone with God is important, and we want to model and encourage this practice in the church that we’re planting here in Wales. All of us at times are caught in the unceasing current of our modern age and the drive to always be connected, always be commenting, always be reacting. Spending time alone with God to listen to Him exclusively is a deeply countercultural response to the frenetic busyness of our society.
To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.Karl Barth
Perhaps not everyone will want a day away with God in the mountains. Perhaps others would be content with a shorter walk, or time alone in a coffee shop. Our need for solitude as individuals will vary. For some, they need more time alone with God, where others are content and filled with less. Our desire is to see people adopt regular rhythms of time alone with God, including days away with Him from time to time.