Christian spiritual disciplines include prayer, meditation, fasting, worship, giving, service, and Bible reading/study. These are all important tools that complement each other and help us grow in our relationship with God. Prayer, however, is the discipline that is probably the most commonly practiced, and it is of basic importance because it can put us in direct contact with God. Prayer was a high priority for Jesus; He always found time to pray. He prayed often, and His prayers could yield miraculous results. Once again, Jesus set the example for His disciples, and they were moved to ask Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-4). We are encouraged to pray "unceasingly" and to do it anytime and anywhere (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, Ephesians 6:18, Luke 18-1-8). Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk, wrote about how he was in constant, prayerful communion with God, even when he was busily working in the kitchen!
In order to receive the maximum benefit from our prayers, however, we should enhance our prayer discipline by individually designating a time and quiet place to regularly meet with God in solitude. For Christians, solitude means more than just being alone; it has to do with slowing down and placing ourselves in a state of inner silence and submission before God, allowing Him to talk to us when He is ready. The Psalmist puts it this way: "For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation" (Psalm 62:1). Our quiet place may be in our home, at work, in a church, in a library, at an outdoor site, or at/in another chosen location. The time and place are unimportant, as long as we develop a regular routine that helps us to invite God into our lives so that we can communicate with Him. The important thing is that we pray in earnest and have one-on-one, quality time with God, with uncluttered minds and without the distractions of the world around us (Psalm 145:18-19, Jeremiah 29:12-13, Colossians 4:2). Clearing our minds may not always be easy, but it is essential for prayer in solitude; it should become easier as we get used to focusing more on God and less on ourselves.
Jesus frequently prayed in solitude (Matthew 14:23, 26:36-39, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, 6:12). He taught the crowds about praying in solitude in His Sermon on the Mount: "But when you pray, go into your private room, and closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open" (Matthew 6:6). Jesus cautions us to not be vain in our spiritual life. We should not worry about trying to be seen by others and "getting credit" from them when we practice our spiritual disciplines (Matthew 6:1-5, 16-18). Instead, we should be humble and only be concerned about being seen by God. And, aided by the Holy Spirit, our prayer in solitude will help us to experience God's presence.
We tend to live hectic, undisciplined lives, and we may find it difficult to include prayer time in our busy schedules. Ironically, it is when we think we are too busy to be bothered with prayer that we actually need prayer the most to help us deal with the tasks, problems, and challenges at hand! Shouldn't our first priority be to spend time in prayer with our Creator? We, too, should follow Jesus' example and find the time to pray. The Disciple Group suggests that you think about your prayer habits and that you adopt the discipline of praying daily in solitude, if you have not done so already. Remember to put God first and to make room for Him in your life. And always remember God's promise to us: "Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3).