I started doing it in high school. Actually, I didn’t even know what I was really doing. But I was drawn out into the wilderness. Alone. I didn’t even know what to say when my parents asked where I was going. So I’d make something up. I didn’t know how to explain it. I would drive out of town and park my car near some woods and just start walking. I didn’t have any idea where I was going, and I didn’t really care. It wasn’t just exploring for the sake of exploring, rather as if I was looking for something. As I was, I was looking for God.
Eventually I’d find a nice place to sit with a view or sometimes an old deer stand. Silently, I would sit there. Sometimes not even praying, but rather just listening. Sometimes I wouldn’t even read any Scripture, but just sit. I didn’t know it, but I was developing the habit of what many people call the “Secret Place”.
It didn’t feel like an obligation or some duty I had to do, so I could check it off my to-do list. It was something I got excited for, something I craved. I wondered what God was going to show me or what He would teach me. Sometimes I wouldn’t hear directly from Him, but he’d display Himself through the beauty of a sunset, an awesome encounter with an animal or the crimson colored leaves falling.
Even Jesus, the greatest leader in the world, would take time to go on his own and spend time with God. The man with big crowds, demands, places to be and miracles to do. He still made time.
But he would withdraw to desolate places to pray. -Luke 5:16
This verse could be translated as “regularly withdrawing and praying”. Throughout the Gospels we read about Jesus getting up early to pray. He doesn’t tell anybody, but just goes. He’s not too busy or too concerned with his schedule. Again and again the disciples have to go and look for Him when they wake up, only to find Jesus by himself having fellowship with God.
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, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” -Mark 1:35
It’s so easy to get caught up in the distractions of life and think that we “don’t have time”. Then we wonder why God doesn’t speak to us more. I’ve heard God speak to me so much more often when I’m away from my phone, away from Facebook and away from the TV. I’m all about church gatherings and fellowship with believers. But nothing is as important as alone time with God.
I remember one of my college roommates getting mad at me because instead of going to a second church service for the day, I chose to go down by the ocean and spend time with God. Yes, God can speak in other ways and church is a good thing. But we should have a foundation of prayer and alone time with God first. This is where our ministry is built.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. -Matthew 6:6
It doesn’t have to be a desolate place like Jesus went, or in the middle of the woods in some rickety old deer stand. But maybe you sit on your deck for a few minutes in the morning. Maybe you go for a walk without your phone and without music. It doesn’t have to be something magnificent. But it does need to be something away from distractions, where you can really focus on God and only Him. Not worrying about checking your voicemail, or making a call or checking your Instagram.
What is holding you back from hearing from God? Is it that God isn’t speaking, or are you too caught up in the hustle and bustle of life to hear Him? Do you set aside time regularly to have fellowship with God? Put the phone down, get away from the computer. Take a few moments to truly be alone with God. There is not better way to spend your time.
Photo: © Daniel Wilde Photography