Following Jesus, who often withdrew to solitary places, Christians throughout history have sought to remove themselves from other people for extended periods of time.
But why? Because when we are surrounded by the crowd (even if it’s digital), it’s hard to hear God’s voice over the constant din.
Henri Nouwen says it best:
Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It's important because it's the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you "my beloved daughter," "my beloved son," "my beloved child." To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.
The voices in the crowd shout:
"Prove that you are worth something." "Prove you have any contribution to make." "Do something relevant and make a name for yourself." "At least have some power—then people will love you; then people will say that you're wonderful, you're great."
But when you are alone with God you can hear him say, "Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you're my beloved. I hold you safe in my embrace. I touch you. I hold you safe under my wings. You can come home to me whose name is Compassionate, whose name is Love."
- Henri Nouwen, Moving from Solitude to Community