And through this breeze a gentle, quiet voice entered into Elijah’s ears…
‘Why are you here, Elijah? What is it that you desire?”
1 Kings 19: 12-13
(The Voice)

Practices of Silence and Solitude:

“The practices of solitude and silence give us a place for paying attention to our inner dynamics, to our circumstances and relationships, and to the dynamics of our relationship with God so that guidance can come as needed..” – Ruth Haley Barton

Spending time in silence and solitude is an invitation from God to stop doing, rest, notice, experience his presence and listen for his voice. The following guide is just that – it’s a guide. It is not a mission to accomplish or a task to overcome. We will explore Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 19, but you are welcome to utilize as many or as few of the following resources as you feel invited. What is God’s invitation to you today? Like Elijah, you may hear God asking “what are you doing here?”

Steps for entering the practice of silence and solitude:

As we enter a time of silence and solitude, it can be difficult to put aside distractions. Following are some practical steps and questions to consider. You may want to walk or sit and be still. Do whatever is most comfortable to you and will allow you to set aside distractions and experience a sweet time with God.
1. Notice your physical state.
2. Get comfortable – breathe deeply.
3. Rest. It’s ok to close your eyes and enjoy the warm sunshine – you may just be exhausted.
4. Calm and quiet your soul.
5. Stop, acknowledge the truth about yourself and rest in God’s presence – don’t try to fix or judge.
6. Notice what is true.
7. What concerns or questions occupy your thoughts?
8. What is the condition of your soul?
9. Where do you hurt?
10. What joys or successes are you celebrating?

Scripture Meditation:

Today we will journey with Elijah through the wilderness as he seeks God’s presence. Start by reading the following passage slowly. You may want to read it more than once or in another translation.

1 Kings 19:1-18 (ESV)

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”


Reflection is fixing our thoughts in careful consideration. Following are some questions for reflection; considerations to ponder with God. You may want to journal or talk out loud to God. Follow his invitation – he longs to hear from you.

Exhaustion (1 Kings 19:4-8):

• Imagine yourself in the place of Elijah. He’s running for his life, in fear and total exhaustion. There is a difference between “good tired” and “dangerous tired”. Can you recognize the difference? Where do you find yourself today?

• How did Elijah’s time under the Broom Tree impact you? Do you connect with his exhaustion? What are you feeling? Emotionally? Physically? Spiritually? What are you carrying? What is your longing? Share your thoughts with God.

The 1st Question: “What are you doing here ___________?” (1 Kings 19:9-10):

• Elijah again finds rest in a cave. While there he hears God’s voice ask, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
• Elijah calls out the good, the bad and the ugly:
– Elijah declared his passion for the Lord.
– Elijah laments that the people he had been called to lead had gone astray.
– Elijah felt scared and alone.
• Call out your own answers to God. Make it personal. God longs to hear from his children.
– I declare or affirm…
– I lament or regret…
– I feel…

The Storm: (1 Kings 19:11-12):

Just as everything starts to feel calm and peaceful, imagine the gentle breeze turning into a fierce storm. Dark clouds gather and swirl around the mountain. The ground beneath you starts to shake. Rocks and boulders start tumbling down the mountainside. Everything feels unstable. Does this resonate within your own life?

What storms are facing today? What pain, sorrow, or fear are you feeling? Be honest with God and be honest with yourself.

The 2nd Question: “What are you doing here ___________?” (1 Kings 19:12-13):

Elijah likely didn’t expect what happened next. The storm passes and he hears God’s voice in a whisper, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”

Imagine God speaking to you in a gentle whisper calling your name, asking you, “My child, what are you doing here?” God invites us to deeper levels of self-awareness. A place where we are free to express the full truth: our desperation, desires and deepest longings.

You may want to respond to God, repeating what you said before. Possibly this question asked a second time has stirred more thoughts and emotions. Or maybe God is just inviting you to be still in his presence? Listen.

Practicing Presence

“Solitude eventually offers a quiet gift of grace, a gift that comes whenever we are able to face ourselves honestly: the gift of acceptance, of compassion, for who we are as we are. As we allow ourselves to be known in solitude, we discover that we are known by love. Beyond the pain of self-discovery there is a love that does not condemn us but calls us to itself. This love receives us as we are.” – Parker Palmer

“When Elijah experienced ‘the sound of sheer silence’ that was full of the Presence of God, there was no need for words or any kind of cognitive response. He wrapped his face in his mantle- a sign of absolute reverence – and he went out and just stood in that Presence. He let the Presence wash over him.” – Ruth Haley Barton

Spend some time just sitting in God’s presence, basking in the sweetness of his love for you. Allow his presence to wash over you.

Hearing God’s Voice

“For only when we know the love of God in a deep, experiential way can we be truly open and receptive to his will. Without this knowing it is hard to listen openly for the still, small voice of God, because we are afraid of what we may hear.” -Ruth Haley Barton

What did you hear God saying today? What is he calling you to? Elijah rested, he was nourished, he listened for God’s voice, he called out his anguish and he experienced God’s presence. Yet God did not intend for Elijah to stay in solitude. God instead gives Elijah clear directions regarding what he was to do next.

Small Groups:

“Whether we have been away for a half an hour of solitude, had an extended retreat time or have dropped completely out of sight for a while, God, in his time, does eventually bring us back to the life he has given us. Perhaps nothing in our external circumstances has changed, but we have changed, and that’s what our world needs more than anything.” – Ruth Haley Barton

Directions: Take some time to connect with others in small groups. Share and reflect on what God revealed to you during your time with him. This is not intended to be a time of working your way through a list of questions, but rather honestly sharing what God is doing in your own soul with other spiritual friends. As a community of believers we have the amazing opportunity to encourage and pray for each other on our spiritual journeys.

• Share your experience – no judgment, no “me too” – just let the person talk
• Ask clarifying questions
• Notice and affirm how God has worked in each others lives
• Lift each other up in prayer

Suggested Small Group Questions:

These questions are only a guide. Working through all of them would take a long time. Start by reading through the questions and notice which ones stand out to you. Share from this place – everyone has their own story.
1. What did you notice?
2. What if any distractions did you experience? How did you deal with them?
3. How did you experience God? Are there any words or phrases that help you articulate your experience with God?
4. Did you feel resistance? Or Desire? Did they occur at the same time?
5. What cares or concerns prevented you from being fully present with God?
6. Where do you see yourself on the “good vs. dangerously tired” continuum? How do you care for your physical body? Did you hear God calling you to take some steps to become more physically healthy?
7. What emotions came to the surface?
8. Did you find yourself becoming more clear about what you want and need from God? Is there an area where you need guidance?
9. What are your usual “escapes” when you feel empty?
10. Is there a truth about yourself that you need to face bravely?

Next Steps…

For some, today may have created an awareness of depletion and a need for real rest. In Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Haley Barton discusses the difference between “good tired” and “dangerous tired”. “Good tired” is what we experience following a job well done; a task where we are able to live out of the fullness of who God has created us to be.

“Dangerous tired” is a sense of feeling like you are on the verge of being out of control, an inability to relax and it may be masked by excessive activity. For some, this dangerous tired can lead to escapist behaviors because we are too tired to choose real life giving activities. Being dangerously tired may cause us to avoid real emotions for fear of never being able to recover from what we discover.

If you are finding yourself dangerously tired, or are teetering on the brink of such, start by sharing honestly with God. He can handle it! Then share with a trusted friend. We were created for relationships – both with God and with others. When was the last time that you went for a walk, invited God’s presence and just noticed? Noticing happens through listening, without talking. It happens when we observe details in God’s creation that we are typically too busy or rushed to see. Or when was the last time you picked up a book, sat outside enjoying our insanely beautiful Southern California weather and just soaked in God’s truth?

Following is a list of recommended books that can provide nourishment for your soul and move you towards the peace and contentment that God so longs for you to experience:

1. The Bible: 66 books of perilous adventures, romance, dramatic poetry, extraordinary miracles, and unfathomable hope, joy, and freedom!

2. Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton

3. Surrender to Love by David Benner

4. What does your Soul Love? by Gem and Alan Fadling

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