We Need Time Alone with God

In a recent magazine article, a Christian college professor expressed concern that his students weren’t Biblically literate even though they read their Bibles every day and even had parts of it memorized. His solution was that people should shift away from private, personal time in the Bible to communal times.

I don’t want to dissect and discuss the article here. However, I wanted to focus on the concept of communal vs. private times in God’s Word.

Do we need time together in the Bible? Yes. Reading and studying the Bible with others helps us get more out of the passage, encourages us, and (hopefully) keeps us from going off on tangents due to misinterpretation.

But I’m concerned that, in the battle against individualism and people pulling away from church attendance, we might go too far the other way and de-emphasize our personal walk with God.

God is the heavenly Father of all those who believe in Him. But we don’t relate to Him only as a group. Wise human fathers spend time with the family all together but also with individual members one-on-one. Our Father in heaven is even wiser. Though He created us to interact with and encourage each other, He also has a personal relationship with each of His children. And relationships thrive on communication.

When I was in college, we were sometimes reminded a Christian university was one of the easiest places to grow cold in our walk with God. Even though we heard the Word of God regularly in classes, in chapel, and in prayer groups, we couldn’t just coast on the spiritual atmosphere. We shouldn’t let Bible classes take the place of our personal time in Scripture.

Our time with others informs our personal time with God. And our time alone in His Word informs our time all together.

The psalms were sung in the congregation. Yet they are full of personal singular pronouns.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. (Psalm 40:2).

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1).

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:5-8).

As much as we need each other, sometimes we have to stand alone with God.

David “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6) when the men of Israel were ready to stone him.

Joseph spent years as the only apparent believer in the one true God that he knew when he was a slave in Egypt. His witness did seem to spread to others. But he had to remind himself of God’s truth on his own.

Two turning-point meetings with God in Jacob’s life happened when he was alone.

Daniel had friends of the same faith, but he faced the lion’s den alone, received visions alone, and prayed alone.

Paul ministered with companions but sometimes was alone.

Jesus dealt with crowds of people yet sought His Father alone.

We’ll each give account of ourselves personally to God. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

If we’re reading the Bible regularly and still don’t know much about it, there are ways to improve. Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, was written for just that reason. I’m trying to write a book on the same topic. There are aids all over the Internet to improve our devotional time, or quiet time, or time in God’s Word. I’ve written about several aspects here.

But let’s keep things in balance. Meet with other believers to read and study God’s Word. But meet with Him alone as well.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

16 thoughts on “We Need Time Alone with God

  1. Well said ma’am. While our time of fellowship and worship is important, I firmly believe it is in my quiet time with God (time of prayer, study, and reflection) that is where my spiritual growth occurs. For me, fellowship and worship times (communal activities) serve to help me usher in those quiet times needed for personal growth. Perhaps what the esteemed professor failed to consider is that memorization of scripture is not the same as application of scripture. Knowing something and knowing how to apply it is very different. Rather than abandoning times of study and reflection, perhaps we should do a better job of relating to young people how to seek understanding and guide application of God’s Word instead of abandoning it. Perhaps my cows might help your readers understand. As ruminant animals, they ingest, and then digest/re-digest many times to get the maximum benefit from that which they ingest. We refer to it as “chewing their cud” or “ruminating.” Perhaps we can apply that example to how we learn to apply God’s Word. We ingest it, and then through quiet meditation and reflection we continue to digest God’s Word getting a little more from it with each time we spend personal time with God ruminating on it.

    • That was my thought as well–that instead of de-emphasizing personal Bible study, we should encourage young people (and all of us) better ways to engage with Scripture. I agree very much that reflection and meditation on what we read is too neglected.

  2. Oh yes!! I treasure my one-on-one times with God in the Bible. I look forward to it each day. I know part of it is being an introvert, but there’s just something so enjoyable about being with God just on my own. I think of how Jesus, although he was often in crowds, took time to be alone with God as well.

  3. I grew up in a church that discouraged individual reading of the bible. The result was not knowing how to draw near, not realizing the fire within that can be built by what the bible taught. I’m glad I was a rebel – and read. When people don’t know the path into the word of God – and are unfamiliar with it, their faith can easily be subverted. Yes, iron sharpens iron in group gatherings, but individual reading builds a more solid foundation. This would be a fantastic group discussion in small groups! Shalom, Barbara. Thank you for always sharpening us!

  4. Hi Barbara, I enjoyed your post. I agree, both meeting with others in a small group and church are important. But I love when I have that time with the Lord alone. Sometimes I will have worship on and get up and raise my hands up. Other time I ust enjoy the stillness of the moment. I went outside to sit in the sun with the Son and enjoyed quiet and peace as I prayed. So many ways to be with Him.

  5. Yes! Totally agree. If we took the advice of the professor you mentioned, we would be especially vulnerable to false teaching. Alone time with God’s Word is essential to our walk with Him. Wonderful post, Barbara.

  6. Pingback: March Reflections | Stray Thoughts

I love hearing from you. I've had to turn on comment moderation. Comments will appear here after I see and approve them.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.