Once we have committed ourselves to spending time in solitude, we develop an attentiveness to God’s voice in us. In the beginning, during the first days, weeks, or even months, we have the feeling that we are simply wasting our time. Time in solitude may at first seem little more than a time in which we are bombarded by thousands of thoughts and feelings that emerge from hidden areas of our minds.

One of the early Christian writers describes the first stage of solitary prayer as the experience of a person who, after years of living with open doors, suddenly decides to shut them. The visitors who used to come and enter his home start pounding on his doors, wondering why they are not allowed to enter. Only when they realise that they are not welcome do they gradually stop coming.

This is the experience of anyone who decides to enter into solitude after a life without much spiritual discipline. At first, the many distractions keep presenting themselves. Later, as they receive less and less attention, they slowly withdraw.

Reflection question:

The analogy of the visitors being ignored contains an important principle for living by priorities. What other analogies could be used to make the same point? How do these encourage you?