A few Sundays ago, Pastor Neal challenged the church in the spiritual discipline of Silence and Solitude. If this is a new spiritual discipline for you, it is fairly straightforward. In this practice, first, you find a place of solitude – a place where you can be alone for at least 10 minutes. Then, you remain silent for those 10 minutes. It is just you, God, and your thoughts. For some, this sounds amazing. For others, it feels very intimidating. One might think, “what am I going to find if I sit alone with my thoughts and the Holy Spirit?”
I have consistently practiced different forms of this spiritual discipline for a few years. I wake up, make a cup of tea, leave my phone on the nightstand, set a 15 minute timer on my watch, and sip my tea in silence. Just the Holy Spirit and my thoughts. You would be amazed at the personal growth born from those moments of silence before God. God has revealed sin in my life. God has strengthened my faith through Biblical promises. God has provided clarity for future steps. All this happened because I took the time to sit in silence before the Lord.
A christian monk once illustrated the practice of silence and solitude using dirty water. He poured the dirty water into a bowl and asked his contemporaries to look into the water. All they saw were dirt particles swirling around in the water. After a few minutes, the monk again asked his contemporaries to look into the water. The water was now still. The dirt had settled to the bottom of the bowl and they could clearly see their reflection in the water. Similarly, the practice of being alone in silence requires us to slow down. It forces us to see our thoughts and reflect upon our emotions. It gives us time to reminisce upon our day and see how the Lord has been at work. In the middle of our busy schedules, we all need time to pause and reset.
With this in mind, I would like to offer a short silence and solitude practice that you can do tomorrow on your drive home from work. This practice is called the examen. The examen was developed by the founder of the Jesuit order, Ignatius of Loyola. It is a discipline that leads one to reflect upon their day with God in prayer. Below I have mapped out a simple form of Ignatius’ examen.
- Begin your time with God by asking the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see where He is at work in your day.
- Reflect upon 5 moments in your day that you are thankful. Thank God for those moments.
- Reflect upon 5 moments in your day that you have not been faithful to the Lord. You can use the 10 commandments, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, or the beatitudes for this section. Take these 5 moments to the Lord in confession and repentance.
- Reflect upon 5 areas in the remainder of your day that you would like God’s assistance. Ask God to give you the grace to glorify Him in these areas of life. Trust that God will answer your prayer.
- After you have completed each step, close your time with a short prayer of thanksgiving.
This is a short version of Ignatius’ original Examen, yet when practiced regularly it produces great growth.
Whether you have been practicing silence and solitude for years or this is your first time hearing about it as a spiritual discipline, I pray that this simple tool will deepen your relationship with the Lord.
“I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love,”
Ephesians 3:17-18 CSB