One of our Soul Shepherding ministries is to guide pastors, pastors’ spouses, and other leaders and caregivers in the practice of solitude and silence with Jesus. Today it’s probably the most important discipline we could practice to grow in our intimacy with Jesus and our capacity to love God and other people. We call this “TLC Time” because the best way to experience and share TLC is “To Love Christ!”
Here are a few poignant keywords from our Retreat Handout (PDF) to orient you in your solitude…
Bring to your solitude whatever will help you to be with Jesus in a personal, interactive way. Probably you’ll want your Bible, journal, and pen. If you’ll be outside you may need walking shoes, a chair, sun protection, jacket or blanket, and water. You may need a lunch or snacks or you might choose to fast. Also you could bring art supplies, a favorite devotional book, a musical instrument, or a worship CD.
Plan to set aside a time and space for Jesus in which you won’t be interrupted by other people, cell phones, e-mails, media, loud noises, etc. (You may need to make arrangements with family members or others.) You might go to a secluded nature spot or a quiet room.
Begin your solitude by doing nothing, perhaps for thirty minutes. Just be with Jesus in the silence with no agenda. This will probably be difficult! It might help to take a prayer walk. You are training your body and soul to listen to the word of the Lord: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). With practice you can live your daily life in Jesus’ easy yoke (Matt 11:25-30), free of hurry, worry, and selfish ambition.
You may be hoping to have a special time with God, hear a message from him, or to accomplish something important — release your desires to the Lord. You may be anxious about your work, a loved one, or a personal matter — put each concern into the Father’s hands. Ask Jesus to lead you in this this time and then be open to whatever he has for you, trusting that it is good even if it doesn’t feel good. You may feel refreshed by God or distress may surface. You may be encouraged or challenged.
What would you enjoy doing with Jesus? He is your Best Friend and he likes being with you! Probably you don’t want to do a major Bible study or lots of reading. Set aside any concerns for loved ones or your ministry until the last part of your solitude. Instead of trying to accomplish projects, simply pray from your heart, perhaps meditating on a Psalm or Gospel story. If you’re tired you may need to take a nap. Go ahead — Jesus took naps! This will help you to be refreshed and attentive to God.
In prayer everyone struggles with distracting thoughts — don’t feel bad about it. When your mind wanders offer the distraction to God or replace it with a prayer. Give thanks and praise to God or meditate on Scripture. It may help you to gently repeat phrase from the Bible, possibly breathing the words in and out as a Breath Prayer.
What’s been going on in your life lately? How are you feeling? Talk to God about your experiences and needs. You may want to journal your prayers and what God seems to be saying to you.