What are spiritual disciplines? These are practices found in Scripture that help us with our spiritual development and growth. Bible intake, prayer, and meditation are some examples. Ideally, Christians who desire spiritual growth would engage in these disciplines on a regular basis. There is, however, one particular spiritual discipline that we often overlook. In fact, it might not even strike us initially as being a discipline. The most interesting part is that this is something that Jesus did often in his ministry, and Scripture records those instances quite clearly: Solitude. Solitude was a major part of Jesus’ ministry and life. Let’s look at some examples:
Mt. 14:13 -Jesus, after learning about his cousin’s death, separates himself to grieve.
Mk. 6:30-32 – Jesus tells his disciples to separate themselves from the crowd and rest.
Mk. 1:35 – Jesus went to a desolate place early in the morning to pray.
Lk. 4:1-2 – Jesus, before beginning his ministry, prepares himself in solitude and fasting.
Lk. 6:12 – Jesus spent all night in solitude and prayer before choosing his apostles.
Lk. 22:41 – Jesus withdrew from his apostles to pray before his death. …and more.
There are so many examples of Jesus practicing solitude before and during his ministry all across the gospel accounts. So many that they can’t possibly be insignificant details. Jesus’ many examples of solitude teaches us a few things:
- Even Jesus needed solitude sometimes. We live in a world that is constantly going at 100s of miles per hour. We often find ourselves constantly juggling so many different things, and we may think to ourselves, “How can I possibly balance everything?” Jesus carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, yet he still found time to separate himself from the noise and clutter of the world. It shows us that even the Son of God needed time to gather his thoughts, disengage from the work, and take care of himself (and his apostles).
- Jesus’ solitude was intentional and purposeful. While it is true that we must rest from time to time, we also have to recognize that Jesus’ solitude was often focused and purposeful. Jesus often intentionally separated himself from the crowd— sometimes even his own apostles—to rest, but it was not just for the sake of resting. His solitude was used to prepare himself, to communicate with God, to teach his apostles to do the same, and more. It provided rest, but it was still disciplined.
- Jesus often engaged in other spiritual disciplines during his solitude. In many of the instances in which Jesus engaged in the discipline of solitude we can also find Jesus engaging in other disciplines like prayer and fasting. Jesus did not engage in spiritual discipline only in the presence of others. He took time out of his ministry and life to separate himself from everything and purposefully practice other spiritual disciplines.
Hopefully, we all are engaging in spiritual disciplines like Bible intake and prayer. These are obviously important in developing our spiritual maturity, and we all know that. But are we intentionally practicing biblical solitude? Jesus seemed to prioritize it often—and for good reasons. Let us follow in his examples even in solitude and purposeful rest.