Prayer article for S.S. – No. 31
The Secret Strength of Solitude: Nature grows in quietness – Can we?
Nature teaches us again with how it grows. It is as if, in God’s presence, and in its quietness, it simply grows. Nature is still. Not fighting frenzied deadlines or enduring incessant noise or movement - but it is still. And in its stillness and solitude, it grows.
In contrast, we mark out our stillness, our quietness, and measure it in time – a linear block of minutes and hours. But it is when our stillness before God is timeless that we fall in love with just being in His presence.
Imagine two people in love. They are together and even when they are apart they are thinking of each other. Now imagine if one of them said, “well, time’s up… we had 10 minutes together. Good enough. Love ya!” and they part with not another thought of their moments together. This would not be a healthy love. Agreed?
Yet when we approach prayer we make it so very linear. We have a time frame. We have a list of ‘asking and getting.’ We might have a ‘format’ that we adhere to each time we voice our prayers. We end up with a very two dimensional prayer life that is not very appealing and dismantles the idea that God wants to love you and has many aspects to demonstrate your love relationship with him.
One of these elements is found in stillness or solitude.
Have you ever had a friend that could just be with you – no conversation was really necessary – but the enjoyment and comfort of their presence was intimate, warm, and safe. In this relationship there is no pretense: you can be yourself. Right from the start, God painted the same picture of how He wanted to be with us as Adam and Eve heard God walking in the garden to be with them. God takes the initiative to be with us. Zephaniah declares that God “takes great delight” in us, quiet’s us “with His love,” and rejoices over us (3:17).
“Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live (and grow, my emphasis) a spiritual life,” says Henri Nouwen. Richard Foster goes on to say that ‘by means of solitude God frees us from our bondage to people and our own inner compulsions.’
In solitude we remove ourselves not only from others but also to die to self (1 Cor. 15:31). At first, we see quiet solitude as a way to recharge the batteries so that we can attack our battles with new vigor. But soon we find that the solitude gives us the ability to ignore the battle all together – maybe the battle needn’t even be there. We gradually let go of the things that drive us: the need for more of wealth, things, power, status and its symbols and even our appearance of youth. In that quietness we expose those imposters to be what they really are – temporary and earth bound.
When we are alone with God in this type of solitude, we are more pliable, transparent and abandoned to the hands and mind of God.
We often quote Psalm 46:10 as our clarion cry for stillness – “Be still and know that I am God.” But, in Robert Alter’s book, The Book of Psalms, he points out that a closer reading of this phrase is more, “Let go, and know that I am God.” It means to relax one’s grip on something. It is to cease from armed struggle, unclenching the warrior’s fist, for the end of the thought is that the ‘LORD of armies is with us.’ How important are your battles when you are in the presence of the ultimate warrior? It is his supremacy that is the focus of our stillness. Just like nature, we will quietly grow in the necessary solitude of our prayer life and in that stillness, we will know God and his love.