NASHVILLE (BP) — At a time management seminar I attended some years ago, the leader made a plea that every busy executive must begin each day with what he called “planning and solitude.” His premise was that those who disciplined themselves to have a daily quiet time away from the din of the daily bustle were far and away more productive than those who just rushed headlong into each day’s activities.
The phrase stuck: “planning and solitude.” How very similar to a phrase I had heard from numerous pastors and Bible teachers: “prayer and solitude.”
As I read Scripture, I am struck again and again at how frequently the ideas of prayer and solitude are joined. For example:
— Mark 1:35 — “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
— Matthew 6:6 — “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Other passages draw attention to the effect of quietness, stillness and solitude.
— Isaiah 32:17 — “The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”
— Psalm 46:10 — “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
— 1 Kings 19:11-12 — “And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”
And then there is this verse:
— Isaiah 30:15 — “For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not.”
The final four words of this verse are both intriguing and challenging: “But you would not.”
Why would one not want to follow the Lord in obedience? Extrapolating from the immediate context of Isaiah 30, why would one not want spend time alone with the Lord? Why would one be so caught up with busyness that spending time with the “Holy One of Israel” was not even part of his or her schedule? And, more personally, why do I allow myself to get so caught up with the demands of everything else that I dismiss my time with the Lord as of little utilitarian value in light of all the “important” things I must get done?
Christian singer Larnelle Harris recorded a song titled “I Miss My Time with You.” The song was written from the Lord’s perspective, lamenting that Christ-followers seem to be too busy serving the Lord to actually spend quality time with the Lord: “You’re too busy, busy trying to serve Me; but how can you serve Me when the spirit’s empty?!”
Our schedules reflect our values. How highly do we value our relationship with the Lord? Do we cultivate a relationship with Him through solitude and prayer? Do we actually untether from our devices — smartphones, iPads, laptops, televisions, digital readers — long enough to hear the still small voice of our Savior?
O, that His righteousness were our hunger and thirst (Matthew 5:6)! The promise of being filled is profound: “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.