“The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).
Sadly silence is rare in our word today, including our Christian culture, but it is an essential discipline for the spiritual life in Christ. When was the last time you experienced even just one minute of silent worship in a church service or small group?
In the discipline of silence we abstain from sound in order to make space for a deeper engagement with God and other people.
Silence is Strong Medicine
One way to think of the disciplines for the spiritual life in Christ is that they are like medicines to treat the afflictions of our soul. They’re supposed to minister God’s grace in a way that heals us and transforms us to be more like Jesus, more stable and loving.
The strongest medicine in our spiritual disciplines cabinet is silence. If we spend enough time before God in silence the Holy Spirit will evoke and bring up into our consciousness whatever sins, burdens, or hurts that we’ve repressed. These awareness may be troubling or painful, which is why so many people avoid quiet and stillness. But if we will let ourselves be opened by the Spirit in silence then the healing light of God can minister to us.
Ways to Practice Silence
Silence as a discipline that goes with solitude has two sides: not speaking and not listening to sounds, except perhaps the gentle sounds of nature. When we learn to keep silence the quiet moves from our environment into our soul and the absence of sound becomes a wonderful realization of the presence of God as we feel the refreshing wind of eternity blowing gently on our face.
We can also practice silent prayer with others in community and in this way those who are more mature spiritually can welcome others into being silent together in the presence of the risen Christ.
The other way to keep silence in community is by listening others speak. We do this by offering empathy and prayer in conversation or in a meeting we might refrain from speaking as a way of promoting the ideas of others.
Prayers to Go Deep with God in Silence
The Word of God is tremendous resource to help us enter into silent prayer and benefit from it. Meditation on Scripture helps us to be still in body and mind and quiet ourselves in God’s presence. You can try one of these ways to praying Scripture to help you enter into silent prayer:
- Gently repeat Psalm 46:10 in this way: “Be still and know that I am God… Be still and know that I AM… Be still and know… Be still… Be….” (See, “Be Still and Know Christ.”)
- Sit beside a lake or stream or imagine yourself there as you meditate on the story of Jesus calming the storm at sea with three words that come from his deep trust in the Father during the life-threatening storm: “Peace. Be Still.” (Mark 4:39) (See, “Peace. Be Still.”)
- Picture in your mind the Gospel stories of Jesus blessing the children. Imagine yourself as one of the children as you pray our “Jesus is Enough for Me” prayer inspired by Psalm 131.
- Select a Bible passage to do Lectio Divina with. Our Lectio Divina Guides will help.
Other Disciplines Related to Silence
Silence goes with Solitude, another main discipline of abstinence, but it can also be practiced in relationship with others. Here are some subdisciplines of Silence:
- Listening to People: Quietly listening to others in order to offer them empathy or to promote their ideas or work; also to learn that you don’t have to have the last word or to impress anyone because you’re in Christ.
- Community Silence: Silently praying or meditating on Scripture with others, perhaps for a few minutes or more, such that the community holds one another in the presence of God.
- Contemplative Prayer: Entering into a deep, quiet stillness of body and mind before God in which you simply behold the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart, using few or no words or thoughts, to just “be with” the One you love. (The best way to enter into this intimate prayer of contemplation is to meditate on a Bible story, image, or phrase.)
- Silent Retreat: Setting aside the stress of your normal activities and routines to spend a day or more at a retreat center, privately or in community, being silent in God’s presence to hear his voice or simply to enjoy him and be renewed in your relationship with him. (See “Benedictine Spirituality Retreat” for an example.)
Additional Resources on Silence
Here are some resources to further your understanding of silence from a Biblical perspective and how this discipline can help you be with Jesus and become more like him:
- “Shhhh! Silent Prayer in Church“: A Soul Shepherding Devotional
- “Bible Verses on Solitude and Silence“: Soul Shepherding Bible Study
- “Abide in Prayer“: Soul Shepherding Article/Class
- “Solitude and Silence“: Soul Shepherding Article/Class
- “Soul Talk: Inviting God into your Conversations“: Soul Shepherding Article/Class
- “Live from the Center: Old Wisdom from Thomas Kelly for Today“: Soul Shepherding Article/Class