The Real Value of Time Alone with God
Two years ago, I started what I hoped to be an annual tradition of going up to the North Georgia mountains for the day and spending some time alone with God. I try to have a daily quiet time with Him, but I wanted to start taking one day a year for what I call a "personal Sabbath." I didn't get a chance to go last year because of my job change, a transition to a church staff position, but I made a point to plan a trip this year.
Just a few days after I got approval to take a vacation day, our pastor (and my boss and longtime friend), Scott Moore, encouraged us in our monthly staff meeting to take a day to spend time alone with God in preparation for a staff development day in November. This assignment added to my determination to make the most of my personal Sabbath day.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I drove up to the Jacks River portion of the Cohutta Wilderness Area along the Georgia-Tennessee border -- one of my favorite places on earth -- with my Bible and a notebook, and I spent a couple of hours alone with God. I walked down trails I've walked for many years, silently praying and listening to God. I sat down in a picnic shelter I've camped beside and read God's Word and wrote down what I believed He was telling me.
It was a beautiful, rewarding time -- I walked away from the day with a renewed focus, and also felt closer to God. A personal Sabbath like this one every so often can help believers recalibrate their relationship with God, while a daily quiet time can help believers stay on the right track. Here are some reasons why time alone with God is essential:
1. Time Alone with God Follows a Biblical Model
Throughout God's Word, we see examples of men and women who spent time alone with God. Hannah prayed alone in the Tabernacle for God to end her childlessness, and He answered (1 Samuel 1:9-11). David prayed some of his most desperate prayers -- and wrote his most powerful psalms -- when he was all alone (Psalm 57). God encountered men like Jacob (Genesis 32) and Moses (Exodus 3) when they were by themselves.
In the New Testament, Luke tells us that "Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer" (Luke 5:16). From His temptation in the wilderness to his desperate prayer the night before He was crucified, Jesus relied on time alone with the Father. God gave the apostle John the revelation of the end of days when he was exiled all by himself on Patmos (Revelation 1:9-10).
When we take time to get away and be alone with God, we follow the example of these great men and women of the Scriptures. The same God who spoke to them is available to us, and that's an incredible privilege.
2. Time Alone with God Rests You
Even though I had a couple hours' drive with plenty of morning traffic up to Jacks River, when I arrived at my destination I immediately felt at peace. The natural beauty put me at ease, even with a hike of about two miles. It was an incredibly restful experience.
We know that God rested after He created the universe (Genesis 2:2-3), and He called us to follow that example once a week (Exodus 20:8-11). Unfortunately, in our modern pace of life, rest doesn't come easily. Even a worshipful Sunday can be busy and packed with activity.
When we actually do take time to rest, it can be so rewarding. The psalmist tells us that rest is proof of God's goodness (Psalm 116:7), while Jesus promises rest for those who follow Him:
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
God's rest is more than just a nap or a lazy afternoon in a chair with a glass of lemonade. It's a genuine spiritual rejuvenation that utterly satisfies.
3. Time Alone with God Allows You to Speak to Him With Undivided Attention
One of the things I love about getting away to spend time alone with God is the fact that my prayers are clearer and more focused. I don't veer off on tangents, lose my train of thought, or allow myself to zone out. In short, I give my undivided attention to Him.
I speak and sing my praises to Him, thank Him for the blessings that I lose count of, share my needs and the needs of others, and ask Him to take care of people I'm concerned about. My prayers are always fresher and more heartfelt when I'm able to get away from daily routines to have conversations with Him.
4. Time Alone with God Allows Him to Speak Directly to You
Our staff assignment from Scott consisted of getting away and asking God to answer two questions:
What do You want to do through me?
What do You want to do through those I lead?
I wrote the answers down in my journal. God answered the questions and gave me some specific instructions regarding my ministry team and some admonishments about my physical and spiritual well-being.
Don't expect to hear some audible voice -- though God can do that if He wants to. Just trust in that still, small voice to give you some kind of instruction or encouragement.
I also hear from Him through the scriptures -- in this case, I found myself drawn to the boldness and commitment of the early church in Acts 4. There's just something about paring away the distractions that makes hearing from God so much clearer.
If you're a believer in the God of the Bible, I challenge you to give the personal Sabbath a try. Take a day to get away and spend time alone with God. I can guarantee you won't regret it.