Being Silent Before God & Resting In Prayer
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!”
This morning I want us to meditate on a certain aspect of prayer for just a few minutes.
To be honest this is the most difficult discipline in prayer for me. It is this… being silent before God and resting in Him through and in prayer. Try bowing in God’s presence without talking to Him. Paul admonishes us to “aspire to lead a quiet life” (1 Thess. 4:11). Ask God to help you learn the lessons of quietness. Write down what you feel when you’re silent before God.
Examine the reasons why you have trouble becoming quiet before God. For some people, it’s hard to sit silently. Write any reasons why you may not like silence. Some constantly want to have noise around us or be continually engaged in conversation. Some are afraid of the unknown or what the light of God will reveal in our lives. Some are unaccustomed to silence. We may be impatient and not want to wait to hear God’s voice. Determine to listen for God’s voice. Commit to spending a few minutes of your quiet time each day just listening for God’s voice. Don’t talk, pray or read the Bible—just listen.
“For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength’” (Isa. 30:15).
Let God talk to you through His Word. Do you not realize that allowing God to talk with you through His Word is an aspect of prayer? If prayer is communicating with God, then we have to admit that reading and studying His Word which says that it was all given by God as a way of communicating with God. So, read not to learn but to listen. Listen for God’s messages in meditation and communion. When you are silent before God, something’s happening that you don’t realize. Your body is resting from the pressures of work and your daily life. Your spirit is being rejuvenated from the stresses it faces in the world. Your mind is being recreated with the image of God so that you can better recognize, think, understand and know.
List in your journal the positive things that happen to you when you’re silent.
Keeping the Discipline Of Silence
“…The LORD is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20
Silence is not an empty space. Silence is a room prepared for God, cleared of clutter and swept clean. As a spiritual discipline, keeping silence is a way to welcome God through the deliberate avoidance of outer and inner “noise.” To welcome God into the silence, we make a conscious effort to get beneath or to withdraw from the noise around us. We are surrounded by and filled with noise. The noise around us includes both the sounds we hear such as radio, television, conversations around us, traffic, construction, etc. and the demands made on us by our circumstances such as job and family responsibilities, even religious duties. Inner noise includes memories, emotions, conscience, mental conversations, etc.
We sometimes escape from outer noise through solitude, times of retreat, and “quiet times.” Inner noise is more difficult to control and to shut out. Again, we don’t simply want to try to repress these noises but to get beneath them. Focusing on God, repeated use of a “breath prayer,”1 or some image that calms and settles us can help. As often as distracting thoughts and feelings arise, we simply turn from them to seek our center. (Lest this process sound too “new age,” followers of Christ have practiced the discipline of silence for centuries.) Remember, the goal is to welcome God into our depths, not to achieve some super-spirituality or out-of-self experience. Silence, then, may be a step toward centering ourselves and being present to God.
Typically, being silent involves solitude (being alone with God), but it can be experienced in the fellowship of others. Most often when we try to keep the silence we devote our time and intention to that alone, although we can sometimes find silence in the midst of repetitive activity such as exercise. To keep the silence and open yourself to God, find a convenient time and a comfortable place.
Then ask yourself these questions.
1. Am I prepared to enjoy this silence* or is it something I “have” to do?
2. Will this silence be a gift to welcome or an imposition? Am I simply trying to discipline myself or am I giving this very personal gift to God?
3. Is my body prepared for this silence? Am I rested, comfortable, not hungry or thirsty? * The phrase “this silence” acknowledges not all silence is the same. More than the absence of noise, “this silence” is that quiet openness that we seek, receive, and return to God as a gift to Him.
Some Practical Considerations.
Though our minds and spirits long for rest that comes through silence, we may need to keep other disciplines before we are ready to be silent. For instance, the discipline of Simplicity or what John Ortberg calls the discipline of “Slowing”2 may be necessary in order for us to find space (time and place) in our lives for silence. Silence is not a test of our self-discipline. Silence is a gift we give to God and a gift God gives to us. Before keeping silence, ask God to give the gift of silence and to receive it in return as our gift to Him. In a sense silence is prayer, but a time of silence is not the time to bring our concerns to God. Instead, we wait for Him and welcome Him. As with any guest, we do not make demands on Him. Whether or not He draws near or how He speaks to us is His choice. Sometimes we will have a profound, joyful sense of His presence. Sometimes we will simply give Him the gift of our silence without any special awareness of His presence. Our privilege and call is simply to be silent before Him.
Keeping silence takes time. If your schedule is demanding and you think you must limit the time available for the discipline, set a timer of some sort so you can avoid thinking of the passing of time. Often silence allows concerns to surface, things we must do, ideas we need to think about. Having a note pad at hand can ease our fears of forgetting something; but remember this is a time to welcome God, not to review the past or plan the future. Keeping silence sometimes leads into prayer. Sometimes prayer, when we have poured ourselves out before God, leads into silence.