We live in a fast paced world full of distractions. As leaders, we have much on our plates, and every reason not to do as Jesus so often did… "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.“ Mark 1:35
Many of us may never rise before the sun, and if we do, it may not be in order to seek relationship with God. By our nature, we are “doers”. This is why the radical idea of free grace is so hard for us to digest. So the idea of not being busy, not moving, but just sitting, listening, and waiting for God to speak can feel foreign to our reality. Even those of us who do pray regularly or semi-regularly, our prayers are often one-sided speeches toward God rather than deep, relational conversations with God. If not that, we may often find our minds running away from the moment, filled with thoughts of the day, to do lists, and worry. These things, all of this “noise” in its varying forms hinder our ability to truly engage God. As leaders and Christ-followers, our relationship with God should be paramount.
Nouwen offers some things that have been a help to me, maybe they will be to you also:
1. A praying life is a gift of grace, but not one completely void of our effort. We have a role to play, by the power of God’s grace, in our sanctification… some days and in some ways we simply must be diligent and work at seeking God’s face.
2. The practice of the means of grace or spiritual disciplines God has given us for growth in Him make us attuned to the small still voice of God.
3. We often surround ourselves with such noise that it is impossible to hear God when He does speak.
4. True prayer is simply being all ear to God.
5. Without solitude, it is virtually impossible to live a life fully attendant to God.
6. Inner distractions can be as detrimental to solitude and prayer as outer distractions.
7. Try to do an hour a day, then an afternoon a week, then a day a month, and finally a week a year of solitude.
8. Distracting thoughts withdraw over time as they are given less and less attention.
9. Faithfulness to this means of grace is what matters.
10. At first, solitude seems so contrary to our nature that we will run from it by daydreaming or falling asleep.
11. Freedom from all of our preoccupations is found in solitude and with it the ability to hear the One who makes all things new.