How’s your prayer life these days? Are you longing for a deeper communion when you talk to God but are easily diverted to other things when you pray? Did you know that practicing solitude when praying can improve our prayer life—and strengthen our relationship with God?
In general, Americans tend to be a loud and boisterous lot. We also would rather be moving and active than silent and still. Did you know the Bible talks about being quiet 57 times? God clearly calls us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and to have “a time to be silent” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). He also meets his people when they seek him alone (see Abraham, Jacob, Job, David and Daniel as but a few examples).
We should long to sit quietly before the throne of God, seeking him in the quiet stillness of our minds. By not cultivating a life of prayerful solitude, we can hamper our ability to communicate deeply with God through prayer.
Before you stop reading because you think you don’t have time or space to pray alone, remember why we pray—to talk to our Creator, our precious Savior, and our Heavenly Father who loves to hear from his dear children. Praying is one way to connect with God and strengthen our relationship with him.
Praying alone can help keep our focus on God and allow him to meet our needs and grow our faith. Here are 8 ways the practice of solitude can improve your prayer life.
1. It follows the example of Jesus.
I could stop here, because really, what other recommendation do you need than Jesus often took himself away from others for the sole purpose of praying? Examples abound, including Matthew 6:6; and Luke 4:43, 5:15-16, and 6:12. The most famous, of course, is when Jesus went off alone in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). If our Savior embraced praying in solitude in his greatest hour of need, then we have no finer reason to follow in his footsteps.
2. It fuels our faith.
Prayer in secret, so to speak, can uplift our communion with God. We can have some of our deepest connections with God when no one else is around to observe or hear us. This came home to me in the 2015 film “War Room” about a woman who had a dedicated prayer room where she retreated from daily life to pray for her family and others. How many of us would set aside a room simply to be by ourselves to pray?
3. It gives us the freedom to be real.
It’s when I’m alone in prayer that I’m more able to confess my deepest sins and deepest desires. No one’s around to listen to my pleas for forgiveness or my begging for an answer to a burning question. No one hears me as I lay my heart at the Savior’s feet. I can reveal my true self in alone prayers more easily than with my family, spouse, or church listening. It’s a truly freeing experience to be by ourselves in the presence of Jesus.
4. It removes distractions.
Praying alone helps us disconnect from modern life to reconnect with God. We’re busy people, rushing here and hustling there. Many of us have bought into the notion that to be idle is to be unproductive. So we over-pack our schedules and we stress ourselves to the max by constantly doing, doing, doing. In the midst of our extreme busyness, we can forget that being too busy can be a sin too. In the Middle Ages, the sin of sloth had two forms: paralysis, or not being able to do anything, and busyness, running around frantically all the time.
In the 2015 New York Times article “A New Theory of Distraction,” one theory of why we’re so distracted all the time has a spiritual component—“because our souls are troubled. The comedian Louis C.K. may be the most famous contemporary exponent of this way of thinking. A few years ago, on ‘Late Night’ with Conan O’Brien, he [Louis C.K.] argued that people are addicted to their phones because ‘they don’t want to be alone for a second because it’s so hard.’”
When we’re overly busy, we have little time for solitude in prayer—and that’s the time when we need it most. Being thoughtful in slowing down to pray alone on a regular basis can keep our compass fixed on Jesus and not on the next item on our to-do list.
5. It renews our spirit.
I’ve found when I’m still in God’s presence during solitude prayer, my spirit is encouraged, rejuvenated, and restored. There’s something about waiting on God in the quietness of our innermost being that revitalizes our souls and tugs our hearts ever closer to our precious Lord.
6. It allows us to hear from God.
When we’re too busy talking, we can’t hear that still, small voice of God whispering his eternal truths to our aching hearts. It’s when we’re silent, quiet, contemplating not our tasks but our great God that our ears are more attuned to listen. As the hymn writer penned in “Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings,” “Tune my heart to hear thy praise”—something that’s more easily done in the blessed peace of quiet prayer.
7. It draws us to use the Sabbath well.
When we were first married, my husband and I were determined to set aside Sundays for church and family. Through the years, we’ve largely kept to that, trying to stay off devices until the evening and not playing sports or attending birthday parties. If you’re wondering how to get started on your alone prayer time, I encourage you to begin by setting aside some time on Sundays to pray in solitude. Think about your week past and your week to come. Bring your worries and concerns before the throne of heaven. Pray for your family and yourself.
8. It helps us put on the whole armor of God.
In Ephesians, Paul commends us to gird ourselves against the devil (6:10-18). Praying alone can be a vital part of putting on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. We need to pray for our armor to be solid and sure against the enemy, and prayer by ourselves can be one way we remind ourselves of who we serve and how he’s equipped us.
While there’s a place for public prayer, there’s an even greater need for private, quiet prayer. Make time in your schedule for such alone time and you’ll find yourself spending more and more fruitful time communing with Jesus.