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“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
– Mark 1:35

Recently while reading through the gospels, I was struck by the amount of times that Jesus got away (or tried to get away) to ‘a solitary place.’  

And I know what you’re thinking: “The last thing I need right now is more solitude.”  But this was different.  

This wasn’t simply getting away from people.  It wasn’t about what he was getting away from—for surely Jesus would have loved to spend every waking hour with people—but rather what he was getting away for.  

To be with his Father.  To be undistracted and attentive to his Father.  To find Him away from all the other noises.  For Jesus, that was what nourished him and gave him focus.  It was how he ‘prayed.’  

So often we feel as if prayer is something that we need to offer to God, either for ourselves or on behalf of others.  We’re bashful to pray in front of people because we’ve turned it into a performance (having to say the right words) rather than an encounter with God where we’re actually listening more than speaking.  

One of my most treasured examples of 'listening prayer' is of a time when Mother Theresa was being interviewed by a CBS anchor who asked her what she said during her prayers.   

She answered, "I listen."  

So the interviewer turned the question and asked her, "Well then, what does God say?"    

Mother Teresa smiled with confidence and answered, "He listens.  And if you don't understand that, I can't explain it to you."  

Recently I told a struggling friend that I didn’t know how to pray for him anymore.  Yesterday morning in our staff meeting, Ed commented that he isn’t sure what to pray for anymore.  

What can we say when all we have is wordless groans?   

Perhaps that’s exactly where our heavenly Father wants us.  

In Psalm 40, David speaks of God ‘opening up his ears’ so that he can listen.  Eugene Peterson noted that the Hebrew there is actually, “You have dug out ears for me.”   

As I stare out my office window, watching the January rain bouncing off the pavement, I wonder if this is a season where God is digging out ears for us, trying to get our attention again, trying to woo us to a solitary place so that we can listen.  

In other words, perhaps it’s time to set aside the Netflix and the Facebook and the Instagram and become more comfortable with the silence?  

As Christians, we really ought to be experts in the art of silence.  It’s how we grieve.  It’s how we lament.  It’s how we wonder and marvel and awe at something.  We’re stunned to silence.  And we allow ourselves to receive rather than offer more of what we don’t have.  

Jesus went away to a solitary place often so that His Father could once again dig out ears for Him.  The worries and fears, the fatigue and frustration, the hurry and distractions could all be enveloped in the comforting embrace of God.   

So I encourage you, after reading this, to find a solitary place and take five minutes—just five minutes—to sit in silence.  Listen for God.  Let Him fill you.  Put a timer on your phone or check the clock on the wall.  Turn off the external and internal noises.  Allow yourself to sit in the quiet and to be attentive to your Father who adores you.  

What might He wish to say?    

Lord, open my ears so that I may hear you ...

Poem for Reflection:  

It is a difficult     
lesson to learn today,
to leave one’s friends      
and family and deliberately
practice the art of solitude     
for an hour or a day           
or a week.     
For me, the break
is most difficult….  

And yet, once it is done,     
I find there is a quality
to being alone that is     
incredibly precious.  

Life rushes back into the void,     
more vivid,               
fuller than before.  

- Anne Morrow Lindbergh