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Jan 2, 2012

Be Still…and Know God

I just got back from a bike ride through the forest, or at least the closest thing I can find to a forest where I live. As I escaped the sounds of mankind and lost myself for a short while in nature, alone with God, I realized I hadn’t been alone in the woods often enough lately. Men need quiet time alone with God, and I can’t recommend a better place than immersed in God’s creation.

I’m not the first man to figure this out or recommend such a practice. The Bible is full of encounters with God in the wilderness. Sure, back in biblical days, people spent a lot more time outdoors, so maybe you think that’s just a coincidence. You might also argue that God can speak to us anywhere; in our bedroom, in our office, at the dinner table, even in our car. Why would we need to go off into the woods to commune with God? What are we, a bunch of pagan hippie nature lovers? I might buy this except for two things. First, we are told repeatedly to quiet ourselves when we pray and most places in today’s modern world are far from quiet. And second, Jesus himself made a practice of retreating to the outdoors to pray.

Psalm 46 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.”  We so often skip over the first part of that admonition and then wonder why it’s so hard to know God. Other than when you’re asleep, how often in your typical day could you say that you are truly still? I mean no one else talking to you, no background noise, no radio or TV, no kids playing nearby, no cell phones, no computer, nothing. Just quiet, you and God alone in silence. In our world today, you really have to work hard to achieve stillness.

I believe much of David’s closeness to God, his insights into God’s grace, his grasp of his dependence, came from his many days and long nights tending his father’s sheep in the quiet pastures. In his most famous Psalm, David thanks his Lord for making him lie down in green pastures, leading him beside quiet waters, where He then refreshes his soul and guides him along the right paths. Remember, it was David the lowly shepherd boy, after countless boring days spent in pastures beside quiet waters who had the faith to face Goliath to defend God’s holy name. And it was an older David the King, busy ruler of a nation living in a bustling palace in the city who lost his way and fell into great sin.

If King David wasn’t enough of an example for us to follow, consider how the Lord Jesus found closeness to his Father in prayer. In Mark we’re told that Jesus, “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark…departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Luke also tells us that “he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” Ask yourself why Jesus, in perfect spiritual harmony with his Father, still found value in getting away from it all, into the wilderness to pray. If this was important to our Lord, I think we can benefit too.

So make it a point in this new year to find more quiet time alone in the wilderness with God. Get on your bike, or in your boat, or on the trail and get lost until you can’t hear anything but the wind or the waves and hopefully the Spirit of God speaking to you, and know that He is God.