Silence and Solitude

"Solitude and silence together, when adequately practiced, form a framework within which we can absolutely and constantly be aware of the movement of God in us, and know it is not us." - Dallas Willard
We are surrounded by noise.

Do you feel it? 

Radio, TV, streaming services, iPads, computers, and cell phones. And the noise is not just sound. The noise is also the busyness, the full calendars and the occasional overbooking. It’s the nonstop going and going.

It’s wearing on us. 

But one of the things that we see modeled by Jesus is a rhythm of life that includes silence and solitude. Before He began His ministry, He went into the wilderness for 40 days, where He was tempted (Mark 1:12-13). Often, before the sun had came up, Jesus would go off by Himself and pray in solitude (Mark 1:35). He would often withdraw to ‘lonely places’ to pray (Luke 5:16). And sometimes we see Him recognize His need for it like in Matthew 14, where Jesus learns that His cousin John the Baptist had just been executed, He miraculously feeds more than 5,000 people, then He sends the crowd of people and His disciples away, and goes into the hills to pray by Himself. It seems like solitude wasn’t just something that Jesus liked, but rather it seems that He saw it as a necessity.

Solitude in our relationship with God is not just about being alone. It is about learning to quiet all the voices and false narratives of ourselves, the world, and the Enemy, and learning how to listen to our identity as God defines it. There is a connection between silence and solitude. Richard Foster talks about the inseparable connection in his book Celebration of Discipline,

“Without silence there is no solitude. Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening. Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence” (p. 98).

The key thing that makes any practice into a 'spiritual' practice is the key element of: "with God." The solitude that we're talking about is more than 'being alone' and the silence is more than 'not talking.' Rather, it is about pulling away from the noise and busyness of life to be alone with God, and to quiet ourselves to listen to Him in that place.

Ideas to Grow in Silence and Solitude

There are simple ways to start integrating silence and solitude into your schedule and life. This is not comprehensive list of course, but rather just some ideas to get you started.

Going for a walk, hike, or bike ride

Getting into nature, whether it be on a sidewalk or trail, is a good way to create space to have life-giving solitude. Spending time with God in His creation is a wonderful setting to have our perspectives shift off our busy schedules and our often noisy minds to focus on Him.

Go for a drive

If it is within your ability, going for a scenic drive can be an opportunity for silence and solitude, and Arizona is a wonderfully diverse state with a variety of terrain. Driving with the radio off, soaking in the scenery, and dialoging with God, can be an opportunity to create space for silence and solitude.

Watching the sunrise

One of the benefits of waking up early is the quiet and stillness that we can find there. For instance, if you're a parent, the kids aren't awake yet. If you work business hours it gives you a chance to pause before entering into the daily routine. We actually see in Scripture that Jesus found His solitude with the Father during that time (Mark 1:35). So, set your alarm, get up early, maybe brew a cup of coffee ;-), and spend time with God.

Taking a break

Whether it is a full day off or 15 minutes, pausing to take a break from the busyness of life is crucial and needed. You can turn your phone off, step away from the computer or personal device, and close your eyes and take a deep breath. Prayer practices that have been around for centuries and can be a source of strength in cultivating times of brief solitude and silence. 

Teachings on Silence and Solitude

Recommended Resources

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

"The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry" by John Mark Comer is a wonderful primer on the importance of practicing the way of Jesus in our current cultural climate. 

Celebration of Discipline

"Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster has been considered a Christian classic by many. In it, he explores the "classic Disciplines," or central spiritual practices, of the Christian faith.

The Way of the Heart

"The Way of the Heart" by Henri Nouwen is a short read that focuses on silence, solitude, and prayer as a pathway for spiritual growth, challenging us to surrender the compulsive noise of the world for the way of the heart that leads us to God.

Be Still.

"Be Still" by Brian Heasley is a practical, easy-to-read guide, that explores the multitude of rhythms of Christian prayer and devotion available to every believer. From memorizing scripture and "prayer running" to noticing beauty everywhere, he demonstrates how we don't need to be static for our hearts to be still, and how even in the midst of a full, busy life, we can spend quiet time with God.