Albert Schweitzer said, “The great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.” This great physician, musician, and theologian didn’t get “used up”–he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize at age 77 and worked until he was 89.
How do we avoid getting “used up”? To follow Jesus’ example, we spend time alone with our Father: ” Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). How can we do what he did?
The first step is simply to begin, in prayer. This is something nearly everyone does at some time. Ninety percent of all Americans pray; 60% do so daily; even 20% of atheists and agnostics say they pray (though we’re not sure to whom). All of us pray on occasion–before meals, perhaps, or when we need something. These brief moments of connection with God are a first step into solitude.
As a second step, most of us try to set aside time for prayer alone with God on a regular or daily basis. A “quiet time,” as we sometimes call it. A time set aside, usually in the morning, usually accompanied by personal Bible study. Jesus did this daily. I hope you do it as well.
Martin Luther admitted, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day.” Mother Teresa advised us, “Spend an hour each morning adoring Jesus, and you’ll have all the power you’ll need for the day.” This is our second step into solitude.
Now I want to challenge you to take a third step: make an extended time, on a regular basis, to be alone with God. Dr. John Stott, one of the great expositors of our day, has a simple formula for his soul: he spends an hour a day, day a week, and a week a year alone with God. I’ve tried to follow that pattern myself, and find it a worthwhile goal.
Whether you follow his example or do something else, make a plan for a regular, extended time to be alone with God. I can attest personally to the value of this.
Start by making a morning, an evening, or a day for God. Tomorrow I’ll suggest some guidelines for such a time of solitude with the Father. For now, let’s decide simply that we want to do this. The Lenten season is a wonderful time to set aside an extended period for solitude with your Father.
Now we come to the last step: the daily, internal discipline of solitude. It is possible to be alone with someone, even when you’re not alone. To be alone with your spouse or date in a crowded restaurant or at a movie. In the same way, you and I can go through the day conducting an inner conversation with God.
To do all this, we must make it happen. It won’t just “occur” for us, any more than it did for Jesus. The good is always the enemy of the best. We have to get away from technology and people, to be alone with our Father. If even Jesus needed time alone, away from the very humanity he loved enough to die for, so do I. And so do you.