A believer in Christ who was studying his Bible received a phone call from the Queen of England. As the story goes, the man asked his friend to take a message, saying, "The Queen will have to wait. I am meeting with the King of the Universe."
Most of us are not bold enough to reject a phone call from a royal, let alone a friend or loved one, simply to spend time alone with God. But what if we scheduled one day away from the hubbub of life to spend with Him? Leave the briefcase and cell phone at home, and make ourselves completely unreachable to everyone but God.
Ryan Smith, an American missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ in Malaga, Spain, steals away twice a year for that very purpose.
He gathers his current and past journals, his Bible and maybe a Christian book he's reading. Then he catches a bus to Fuengirola, a city on the Mediterranean Sea. There, Ryan sprawls on a beach sprinkled with seashells about the size of his palm, and spends a day of solitude with the Almighty. He reflects on his past months of ministry, reads his Bible, prays and records what he's learning.
"I look at the example of Christ, because He was constantly doing ministry," Ryan says. "Crowds came after Him, and He escaped to be with the Father. He needed time with the Father. I figure if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me."
Throughout Jesus' ministry, and, indeed, before His crucifixion, He captured extended amounts of time to kneel before the Father, modeling the discipline of solitude.
Meeting with the Lord routinely for small blocks of time is an essential spiritual practice every day. Similarly, couples go on dates, but for an anniversary the couple may chisel time out of their routine to celebrate in a special way. Consider applying this idea to your relationship with God.
Being alone with God doesn't mean being lonely. "We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear," wrote Richard J. Foster in Celebration of Discipline. "Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment."
According to Ephesians 2:18, we have direct access to the Father, the King of the Universe, by the Holy Spirit. Why not take advantage of that right of entry?
HERE'S HOW TO DO IT:
PLAN. Pray beforehand, asking God to use that extended period to refine you. You may even want to fast during your day of solitude. If so, purchase juice or bottled water. See the checklist at right for more ideas of what to tote along.
PICK A PLACE. Determine a spot to meet with the Lord. Maybe backpack up a mountain and sit at the peak. Rent a hotel room. Settle yourself behind the corner table at a coffee shop. Visit a park or the library. Just try to depart from your home and routine.
"Filtering out external distractions will help you focus on what God wants to tell you," wrote Peter Lord in Hearing God. "You can hear God better when you give Him quality time."
PROCEED WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE. Start your day away with a soul-searching prayer. Ask God to reveal displeasing thoughts, words or actions. Then confess them, because sin hinders communication with God: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
PRAISE GOD. The Book of Psalms constantly invites us to lift our voice in praise to God. Spend some time reading one of those Psalms, listening to a worship CD or browsing through a hymnal. And don't be afraid to sing.
PRAY. In time alone with the Lord, you want to be God-focused, not self-focused. "The chief purpose of prayer, then, is to get our wills unbiased," wrote Dan Hayes in Seven Reasons To Pray, Some Obvious, Some Not So Obvious. Ask God to revive you and His church.
PLUNGE INTO THE BIBLE. Meditate on Scripture: "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is relevant to our lives today. Consider reading a book from the Bible, like one of the Gospels or Esther. Maybe zero in on one chapter or several specific verses.
PUT IT ON PAPER. Record what God shows you. For example, jot down a Bible verse that pierces your heart and write down your response to it. Then you can reflect later on lessons learned.
During your day away, don't feel compelled to follow an agenda. Simply enjoy God. He delights in you. Unlike other monarchs, the King of the Universe yearns to meet with us. He longs for fellowship‹so much so that He parted with His only Son to bring us into relationship with Him.
Schedule time with the King. He's waiting.