But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16, NIV)
As a pastor, people often ask me, "How do I connect with God?" Or, "How do I hear God speak?" Or, "How do I grow in my faith?" It would be great if the Bible gave us a simple formula:
A + B + C + D = Easily Hearing God's Voice and Growing in Your Faith
In actuality, it is kind of that simple... kind of.
Prayer + Scripture + Church Family + Obedience = Learning to Recognize God's Voice and Grow in Your Faith
That said, it's easy to say, "You should pray," but what if someone isn't sure how to pray? Prayer has been one of the biggest catalysts for growth in my life, but it's taken me a long time to learn how to pray. I'm not talking about praying in front of the congregation on a Sunday morning or praying for a sick person in the hospital. I'm talking about praying in solitude like Luke tells us Jesus often did.
When we pray in a group of people, we tend to think about what the people in the group will hear and think about our prayer. We craft the prayer accordingly, based on the group around us. There's a mix of motives that drive this. We want to pray in a way that edifies the people we're praying with. We want to add our own contribution to the group prayer (this is why you should always go first–you don't have to worry about repeating what someone else said, haha). We don't want the people we're praying with to think we're noobs.
But when you withdraw to a solitary place, it's just you and God. There's no performance art. There's no other person to judge your prayer. It's you and God and no one else.
And for many people, that's a little intimidating.
When I'm totally alone, I'm the most fundamental version of myself. No pretending. No false smile. No, "I'm okay." It's just me. I can't fake it with God. Maybe that's one reason why we are so afraid of quiet. Whether it's a drive, waiting in line, mowing the grass, going for a walk, working out at the gym, or sitting in the bathroom, we have our phones out or our earbuds in. A constant stream of podcasts, music, news, media, and mindless video scrolling. We'll do almost anything to keep from being in a quiet place where it's just us and God.
There's no acting with God. He knows every corner of my heart and life.
And he loves me anyway.
I don't have to be nervous to be alone with God because he loves me, warts and all.
Next week, I'll share a few thoughts about what to do when you're alone with God. But this week, I simply want to encourage you to do what Jesus did. Find a quiet place to spend a few minutes with God. If you don't know what to do, just sit quietly and focus your mind on God. That's enough of a start.
I love this...