Five Suggestions for Solitude, Silence, and Daily Office for Parents with Young Children
This weekend, during SPL Kids time, the children will be learning about Hannah’s prayer for a son. This weekend in worship, we discuss a Daily Office, Practicing the Presence of God, and Sabbath. A uniting theme for us all is solitude, silence and prayer.
For young parents, the idea of silence or solitude is almost humorous. Life with children is almost always noisy, and since young children require constant supervision, time alone becomes quite challenging. This is especially true if you have children who do not sleep well, making your morning and evening routines less predictable.
I want to offer today a few suggestions for how families with young children can experience solitude, silence, and prayer in the midst of your God-given call to parenting.
- Take advantage of unexpected opportunities for solitude or silence. Perhaps your children fall asleep while you are driving in the car or you find yourself running an errand alone. Consider turning off the radio and spending time in silence. Perhaps your children unexpectedly sleep longer than usual one morning. Consider forgoing Facebook for the morning and spending time sipping coffee and talking with God instead. Pray and ask God for the blessing of these unexpected times of grace, and when they come, thank God for them and spend time alone with Him. Meditate on a favorite scripture passage. Lift up in prayer those who move your heart to compassion. Journal a prayer. Pray the Lord’s prayer slowly, reflecting on each line. Sit quietly, with no expectations, asking God to meet you and lead you in a time of private worship. It is unlikely you can do all of these things everyday when you have young children, but you can watch for God-given opportunities for quiet and gratefully take advantage of them when they come.
- Don’t be hard on yourself for failing to “spending enough time with God.” God has given you this role as a parent. He knows the challenges you face. In all likelihood, you are harder on yourself in this regard than God is on you. Rest in Him. Wait for Him, and don’t be so hard on yourself.
- Find some support or accountability. Pick one thing (ONE, not many) you’d like to do this year to draw nearer to God. Pick something reasonable. Pray and ask God to guide you. Perhaps you’d like to read through the Bible in a year. Perhaps you would like to journal before bed each night. Perhaps you’d like to spend the first 5 minutes of your day in prayer. Perhaps you’d like to take a monthly retreat for half a day, one day, or 24 hours. Perhaps you want to memorize one scripture passage or verse each month and spend that month meditating and praying on that scripture. Perhaps you’d like to gather weekly with a small group of intercessory pray-ers. Perhaps you want to spend one day a week not checking Facebook or not watching TV or listening to the radio. Whatever it may be, pick one activity, then look for another person or group of people who would like to do the same. Check in with each other at a prescribed time to encourage one another. It isn’t cheating if you don’t do it yourself. Do it yourself is the world’s motto, not God’s. He designed us to be in community with one another.
- Talk less. Most likely, you cannot control the amount of noise around you very often. An important aspect to the discipline of silence is that of not talking or of less talking. Henry Nouwen in The Way of the Heart (a short, easy to read, powerful book on solitude, silence, and prayer) presents a compelling argument for the importance of less talking in the midst of our very noisy, word-filled world. How often do we speak words we regret? How often is our talk empty or meaningless? Silence in our day can be awkward, but this does not have to be so. There is a silence that is full and meaningful, a silence that transforms us and makes us more like Christ. One way we can all engage in the discipline of silence is through less talking.
- Pray with your children. At bedtime, start with a brief prayer that a child can understand, then rub their backs and pray for them and for your family and pray from your heart. Let your child fall asleep to the sound of your voice, praying. Likewise, you can read scripture to your children. Start with a children’s bible, then read to them from the version of the bible you prefer. Again, imagine the power and impact it would have on your child to regularly falling asleep to the reading of God’s Word.
Again, let me emphasize, don’t try to do it all, and don’t try to do it alone. Take small steps, with others, knowing that ups and downs are normal and that the seasons of life are regularly changing.
One more quick note on silence, solitude and prayer: sometimes you will find these practices easy to engage in, and other times it will be much more difficult. Sometimes you will easily perceive God’s presence, and other times it will feel that He is far. This is normal and a part of the process God uses to transform us. Do not let this discourage you or leave you feeling like you must be doing something wrong. Keep going. God is faithful.
I pray you find these suggestions helpful. I pray you will discover the blessings of solitude, silence, and prayer. I pray you will give yourself a break and not be so hard on yourself for not living up to the standard of Christian discipline you desire or believe God desires. I pray you experience a grace-filled life of trust in the God who loves you and desires to care for you.
Here are two good songs to sing or listen to after a time of silence with the Lord: