4 Reasons to Practice Silence and Solitude

  • 31 January 2018
  • Randy Wollf

woman looking at oceanWe’ve all experienced the awkwardness of silence. Think about the silence we experience at a dinner party when the conversation falls flat or the confining silence of a long elevator ride in a half-full elevator.

The commands, “Be quiet” or “Shut up,” are often punitive attempts to stop words—to enforce silence in another person.

If silence has a bad rap, solitude hasn’t done much better. If you have too much solitude, you’re a loner, outsider, or maybe even an outcast. Being sent to one’s room or a lengthy period of solitary confinement are punishments meant to instill the wrongness of an action.

Silence and solitude are certainly associated with negative connotations. Yet, there must also be an upside since Jesus regularly practiced both disciplines.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus went to isolated places by himself to pray (Mark 1:35). At times, huge crowds followed Jesus. The ministry opportunities were endless. Yet, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16). Prayerful silence and solitude were a regular part of Jesus’ life. Busyness and a growing ministry did not distract Jesus from these important disciplines.

If the Son of God chose to practice silence and solitude as a necessary part of his life and ministry, it would seem wise for us to do the same. If the end goal of practicing silence and solitude is to glorify God by loving Him more deeply and serving Him more effectively, then a God-honoring silence and solitude will do at least four things:

1. Leads Us Deeper in Our Relationship with Christ

We need to slow down – to find spaces where we can hear God’s voice. “Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world” (Psalm 46:10).

Judy Brown says, “What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space.” We, too, need breathing spaces – places where we can examine our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort and even convict. We need spaces where we can pray without interruptions or distractions—a daunting challenge if you’re the parent of a toddler!

Without these seasons of silence and solitude, the fire of spiritual passion within our souls begins to diminish. However, when we practice these disciplines in God-honoring ways, we stoke the fires of spiritual passion—the passion and commitment we need to truly live as vibrant and fruitful followers of Jesus.

2. Positions Us to Receive More of God’s Resources

During one of my personal retreats several years ago, I struggled with God about the possibility of taking my family overseas for a year of cross-cultural ministry. Yet, during that time, God spoke through His Word and in other ways to convince me that I needed to take this step of faith (my wife was already raring to go). We ended up going to Thailand with Power to Change—a life-changing experience for our entire family.

3. Gives Us Space to Apply What We Are Learning

Depending on your stage of life, you might find yourself running very quickly through each day. Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Silence and solitude gives us an opportunity to think and process life.

4. Helps Re-Create Our Bodies, Minds, and Spirits

God can use times of silence and solitude to recharge our batteries. Whether it’s a few minutes during a busy day or several hours at a retreat location, we need those times to rest our bodies, renew our minds, and enliven our spirits. Why? So that we have increased capacity to live out His call on our lives.

Of course, silence and solitude are not the only spiritual disciplines. However, in our increasingly noise-filled society, they are often neglected, and our souls suffer as a result.

How do I intentionally practice silence and solitude?

Sometimes, I will drive to and from work in silence. I also look for other times during the day to just be still.

I typically go for a 30-minute prayer walk or jog first thing in the morning or over my lunch break.

Sometimes, I will go on longer prayer retreats that range between an hour and two days (see the Five Reasons to Go on a Prayer Retreat blog for more about why these retreats can be so helpful).

Taking time to prayerfully reflect, process and decide (or wait) is so important. I am convinced that most people simply do not experience enough quietness and solitude that is needed to adequately reflect, to discern the best course, or to hear God’s quiet voice. Our lives and minds are often going too fast.

As Peter Scazzero has said, “You can’t live at warp speed without warping your soul.”

We need to slow down. We need to have more space in our lives.

To help you create some space to reflect on the practice of silence and solitude, here are some questions to consider:

  1. Do I have the right mix of silence and solitude in my life?
  2. If necessary, how might I add more silence and solitude to my daily routines (be specific)?
  3. How can I make my times of silence and solitude more meaningful?
  4. What would a God-honouring, personal retreat look like for me?

Randy Wollf is the Director of MinistryLift and Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies at
MB Seminary

>> MinistryLift offers training on character development through various spiritual disciplines. You can learn more about these training options by contacting MinistryLift