“The spiritual exercises awaken us to the already present God, and at the same time, invite God to shape our minds and souls and bodies.” – James Bryan Smith, Good & Beautiful God
Spiritual disciplines are a way to make ourselves available to God, not forcing His hand, but becoming ready to receive it. Most of the time we discuss disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, scripture memory, giving, and sometimes even fasting. Those are hugely important, but I’m not going to cover them, because I think you understand them pretty well already. Instead, today we will consider the spiritual discipline of silence.
Imagine yourself in a room full of people. You have a friend across the room who is trying to tell you something, but everyone else in the room is talking to you as well. This is the everyday chaos of our lives. We have so many voices telling us who we are, what we should do, what we should think. We listen to our friends, our family, our pastors, our teachers, tv commercials, magazines, movies. We communicate more in our current culture than in any other before us: talking, calling, texting, tweeting, posting, blogging, updating. We are always accessible, should anyone feel the need to tell us they are at the grocery store. We are rarely if ever quiet, much less unreachable. Our most serene moments can still be breached by a facebook update or a text message. And yet we are still surprised that we have a hard time discerning the will and the voice of God.
“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” – John 10:4
To hear from God, we must know His voice. This is where the discipline of silence comes in. We must spend time with everything else turned off, so that we can get to know the voice of our shepherd. How is He supposed to guide us when we do not recognize His voice amid the cacophony of our lives? Spending time away from everything (music, phones, iPods, friends, family) can allow room in our ears to finally hear clearly from Him. And it’s going to be feel incredibly awkward. I tried to spend a completely quiet day in a hotel room a few months ago. I lasted about an hour, and then turned the TV on to ESPN. I didn’t even mean to. It was just a habit. I naturally fled from the silence. (By the way, I turned it off about 10 seconds later, once I realized what I had done.)
“Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our lives.” – Dallas Willard
Silence is uncomfortable, partially because it is so rare. But I think it’s really important. When I went out on my first date with the amazing woman who is now my wife, I opened her door, let her get in the car, got in myself, and then took out my phone, turned it off, and put it in the glove compartment. I wanted her to see and to know that I was completely focuses on her that evening. I was unavailable to anyone else. I wanted her to know how important whatever she had to say was to me.
And how much more important is whatever God has to say. I don’t want to miss a moment of His communicating with me. I don’t ever want to miss what He has for me. I’m not saying you need to move far out into the country, and have no friends or cell signal. I’ve just found that it’s important to be intentional about taking time to get away from the noise, to turn everything off, to make myself completely available to His voice. I want to know His voice. I want to immediately recognize when He is speaking to me. I want His words to determine who I am and what I do. I want to follow where my Shepherd is leading.
So why don’t you try it? It doesn’t have to be a whole day, like I mentioned earlier. Try 10 minutes. Or 30 minutes. Find somewhere you won’t be interrupted. Turn your phone off. Your iPad. Your laptop. And be quiet. Listen. Maybe you could memorize a scripture earlier, so your mind has something to rest on, to contemplate. Or you could think on an attribute of God, or how He has been working in your life. You could pray Zephaniah 3:17 and ask God to quiet you with His love. Or maybe you just need to listen. Let me know how it goes.
13 thoughts on “Be Still Vol. 2”
I am lucky enough to have a key to our church. There are many times I find myself there late at night…or on a Sunday afternoon when no one else is around… there is that silence you speak of and just as important, a peace.. it is those moments that I find myself having some of the best conversations with God. There is usually a bunch of thank yous and occasionally a whole boatload of whys… and sometimes I’ll even catch myself asking Him how HE is doing… its gotta be a tough job..
I don’t go into silence looking for noise… the silence for me is a letting out, a releasing… i don’t expect the flowers on the altar to burst into flames and the Great wisdom be thrown at me as I walk into the parking lot with stone tablets… I expect to come away with a whole heart… knowing that my words were heard, and His will be done..
Silence is a HUGE issue for me. I’ve realized lately that I’m so dominated by the need to be connected…somehow afraid that if I’m not that I’m gonna miss something. The truth is I am missing something: the voice of God. I do need to learn to find quiet times to just hear from God.
Before you came last week to DNow at Bunker Hill, Will (our youth director) opened our church building at 5:30 every evening for prayer for the event (and for the youth attending). Whenever I went to pray, I was the only one in the church. It didn’t dawn on me until I read your post that far too often I allow myself to be distracted by “good things”, and I fail to grasp those “greater things” (like really feeling God’s presence and hearing His voice). I mean, yeah, I have a “quiet time,” but is it really that? Based on what you’ve written, I have to respond with a shameful “I don’t think so.” You’ve challenged me to put aside the “good things” so that I can be more available to receive the “greater things” that God wants to teach me.
So, so true, Todd. I think a lot of us are terrified to turn off our phones for fear that we may miss something. It reminds me of my little girl, who doesn’t want to take a nap because she’s convinced there’s something better happening, when really that bit of silence and rest is exactly what she needs. So often I am just like her, convinced that whatever is going on in the world is more valuable than a few moments of silence with the Most High God. Thanks for sharing, Todd.
I found this on a Christian motorcycle rally this weekend – wasn’t complete silence – but it was no other voices or distractions. Myself and two friends all said we haven’t felt that close to God in a long time. God Bless.
You be quiet….and I’ll be peace. 😛 lol God’s love to you!
I love the writings of James Bryan Smith, he is my favorite author. Which book of his did you get the quote from?
His book, “Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing To Heaven” is my favorite book to read!!
Wow, I realize that it has been a year since I have last done this meaning getting quiet before the Lord. It was on our last day in Belize on the mission trip I went on last year, it was so awesome and it so beautiful to get up with God and listen to Him alone among the water. Thanks Todd for this because I realize that I need more of this discipline in my life. Especially right now as I am preparing to go back to Belize this year and God has giving me a oppurtunity to be his mouth piece. I will be giving a sermon this coming Tuesday night which is our evangelism service. I can’t wait and I am going to spend some time today and tomorrow practicing this discipline because I want this trip to be all God wants it to be! Pray for us and thanks once again Todd for all that you do for our great God and for His Kingdom!
It is a test of our faith isn’t it? Along the lines of Lia’s reply, I am a dad & have to ask myself, “do I trust God enough to turn off the cell phone, & intentionally make my self inaccessible to all the world and know that everyone will be OK when I turn it back on?”
I help out with sound in our church. I do things like move speakers & wrap cables. We were in a rented facility and had a service that included the use of candles. At the end of the service I wrapped everything up and stored it all. Everyone was gone except for me and the facility manager. I went to say goodbye to him and he handed me a scraper. He said, “not yet, you need to get that candle wax off the floor” and walked away.
I was able to fight off what I wanted to tell him he could do with his scraper, took it and went to work. In a large, empty auditorium, in silence, I was on my hands and knees scraping candle wax off the floor. The HE showed up. Jesus met me there. It was one of the most profound spiritual experiences I’ve had in my life. I barely fought back the tears. The silence, the mundane, the solitude, the menial. I treasure them all. And apparently, HE does too.
A few years ago when I was stranded in the country without a car and financially destitute, I had a lot of time to be still and spend time with God. It was so amazing and sweet to have uninterrupted time to listen and open my heart to His love. Now that life has gotten busier, I miss having such a wealth of fellowship. Your comment about the importance of being intentional about taking time to get away from the noise is so true. Healthy marriages schedule date nights, so why not set aside regular quality time (not just quick devotionals or prayers) for our most important relationship of all?
So beautiful and so true, Todd! You are such an inspiration! God bless you!!
I am one of those people who talks out-loud to myself, so the first time I tried a fast of silence, it was immensely difficult. I combined it with physical fasting for 24 hours. It became so evident to me that we cannot do anything out of vainness or empty conceit – sure, I can exercise control over my body and mind for a while, but I cannot legislate a change in my heart/soul by outward actions – yet when we practice such disciplines (fasting/silence) as worship, change inevitably comes from the inside out because of God. It is such times we connect very deeply with the fact that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit and He is waiting for us to get ourselves out-of-the-way long enough to listen to Him.
I also learned we cannot fast, etc., in an attempt to manipulate God to give us something either, yet when we make an effort to intentionally give of ourselves in these times of fasting, God often does gives us great clarity and blessings despite ourselves.
Through the years I have made a fast of silence a regular discipline, and though at the moment it has been a little while (I was just discussing this last week – guess I’m getting a subtle hint) whether it is for an hour or a day or whatever, this is one discipline of worship that I find powerful, wonderful, and oh, so worthwhile.
I am so glad you are sharing this with your readers. The Ignation disciplines are very powerful. I have had the honor to teach them to our prayer group in my community of Premont. So I am looking forward to following your teaching online. Bravo. My brother in Christ.