And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. - Mark 1:35

Of all the tools, strategies and resources available to help us be effective and successful, the discipline of a deep, extended time with God consistently out-performs all else. More people have breakthroughs in their personal, professional and spiritual lives as a result of this communion than any other single method. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? If our goal is to live out our God-given purpose, then it makes sense that we should spend time listening to the purpose-giver!

Many people yearn to hear God’s voice and plan for their lives, but the busyness of everyday life distracts us. It is critical, therefore, that we intentionally schedule extended time to find a quiet place away from all the distractions.

Here is one recommended approach:

  1. Schedule it. Schedule a full day, if possible. Overnight is even better. It often takes a half-day or more just to pull your mind out of work-mode. Be sure to let the key stakeholders in your life know that you are taking time away and will not be reachable.
  2. Withdraw. Go to a retreat center, a lake house, beach house, camping, a mountain cabin, etc. Any place that is quiet and where you can be alone will work. I recommend not doing this at your home or second home, as it's too easy to be distracted by visitors, projects, etc.
  3. Unplug. Leave your cell phone OFF. No computer or TV either.
  4. Keep it simple. Bring your journal, a Bible, music, perhaps one book by a Christian author. That’s more than enough. Perhaps start with “What I want to say to God.” Then extended time (most of the day) reading, listening, and writing around “What is God trying to say to me?” Lastly spend time (perhaps an hour) writing around “What is the big thing I am hearing from God and what are the implications in my life?”
  5. Get outside. Experience the natural wonder of God's creation.
  6. Write it out. Journal your thoughts throughout your time alone. Not only will it help you maintain your focus, you’ll later be able to look back and see patterns, themes, and answered prayers along your journey with the Lord
  7. Relax. Enjoy your time. Don’t feel like you have to be praying 24/7. Take a walk, fish, swing in a hammock.
  8. Be prepared. You will be distracted. It's just the way we are wired. Don’t be discouraged at your wandering mind. Just keep re-focusing on God and what He is saying to you.
  9. Expect opposition. Satan will try to derail your time, most likely in the day or two before you leave. This is the last thing he wants you to be doing.
  10. Be measured. Give thought to what - and how much - you will eat and drink. Too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol, etc. can distract us and/or cloud your thinking and focus.

Think and pray
Many people know about God, but to truly know Him is to spend time with Him. To talk with Him. To listen to Him. To sit in His presence and give Him your full attention. When was the last time you did this?

Thank You, heavenly Father, that You desire to spend time with me. Please bless our time together. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Gary is a seasoned Executive/Leadership Coach with a biblical perspective committed to walking alongside and building up other believers in all aspects of their lives. Gary is a Senior Area Director for CBMC Central Midwest.