A step-by-step guide to solitude

The following content is derived from Making All Things New by Henri Nouwen.

If you want to stop flitting from one distraction to another and start seeing the meaning of seemingly unconnected events, give hearing — and obeying — God a go. And the way to begin is by carving out time every day — as scanty as ten minutes — for the discipline of solitude. (Note: this is vastly different from going into your ‘nothing box’, daydreaming or taking a nap!) For what you can do during this time, here are some steps suggested by Nouwen:

  1. Have a ready place: simple and uncluttered.
  2. Come with empty hands: being naked, vulnerable, useless, without much to show, prove or defend.
  3. Don’t attempt to fight the distractions that invariably follow. Instead, anchor yourself amidst this stormy sea by focusing on God’s presence with words of Scripture. It can be a short expression, a few sentences or a longer text; a psalm, a parable, a biblical story or a saying of Jesus; a word from Paul, Peter, James, Jude or John.
  4. After that, it is time to spread out your intercessory prayer before your King. Lead all the people in your life into His healing presence.
  5. It would be good to end with the Lord’s Prayer.

You can also involve walks in nature, the repetition of short prayers and certain actions. But always, and above all, keep things simple and regular.


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