Saints and biblical characters distanced themselves from others to better hear the voice of God.

Whenever a saint or biblical character wanted to hear God; they almost always distanced themselves from other people and sought solitude. Sometimes they would find a secluded forest to encounter God, while other times they would find a mountain.

An episode in the life of the prophet Elijah is one of the best known examples of this type of solitude. God expressly asks Elijah to, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by” (1 Kings 19:11). Then God reveals himself to Elijah in what some translations call a “still small voice.”

There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Even Jesus, during his “agony in the Garden” distanced himself from his apostles in order to speak with his Heavenly Father, “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Matthew 26:36).

In order to hear God’s voice within our soul, we must reduce all exterior distractions. There is a reason why it is typically much easier to pray in an empty church building than in the middle of Times Square. Our minds can easily be led astray by both “verbal” noise as well as “visual” noise. As it is revealed in the life of Elijah, God is not easily heard in the violent storm, fire or earthquake, but in the “stillness.”

We should try to remember this simple fact and take advantage of any opportunity we are given to spend time alone, away from other people. Time of solitude can be seen as a gift from God and an opportunity to deepen our relationship with him.

Silence can sometimes be difficult to endure, but when we recognize it as an opportunity to listen to God, his presence can wash over us and grant us his peace.