Why The Spiritual Discipline of Silence Is Important
“Are you still watching?” Netflix asks us as we quickly grab the remote to say “yes.” In fact, we are frustrated it even asked rather than continuing to the next episode in five seconds. We live in a culture of constant motion, where even the five seconds between episodes is too long to wait. We are surrounded by accessibility, fast food, high-speed internet; we can barely stand waiting for the microwave to finish. We are consumers. There is always something to do, or something taking place. Even when we are put on hold for a phone call, there is never silence— just terrible music.
Silence on Sunday Mornings
Sadly, this translates into our Sunday services. There is a trend to see Sunday morning as a habitual, spiritual gas station. We come because we know we are supposed to, and we need to get our fill to journey through the upcoming week. Although we strive to plan Sunday mornings to reflect on the work of Christ, we would admit that prayers without background music or moments of silent pauses between transitions can feel awkward.
I believe this is exactly what we need however; silence. A consumeristic approach to Sunday morning worship asks, “What can I gain from this?” but the discipline of silence asks, “What will God reveal to me?”
Silence in the Day-to-Day
Silence is something that can be practiced outside of Sunday morning. You can, and I believe as Christians we should, take time to sit and listen to God. Yet, it is also something that can benefit us corporately as we sit together—waiting and anticipating what the Lord will reveal to us. We pray and ask for God to “give us this day our daily bread,” but do we ever wait and listen to what that might be, or do we merely try to figure it out on our own?
Silence is an act of faith, believing that God will make himself known in some way. Now let me clarify: when I say silence, I am not speaking of solitude. We all benefit from times of solitude—going off on your own, perhaps in nature or putting in headphones and listening to music. But solitude does not equate silence. If we are listening to music or even reading, we aren’t truly waiting in silence. Silence also is not a time of personal prayer, but rather a time to hear from God.
This is counter-cultural to our consumerism. Our prayers are often filled with requests for God to fulfill, yet this is a way we can actively seek to just listen.
The Spiritual Discipline of Silence as Praise
Psalm 65:1 connects the idea of waiting in silence before the Lord to praising him. Silence corelates with a reverent adoration for God as we see in Habakkuk 2:20, “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” We even see John recording this in Revelation 8:1, as silence took place for a half an hour in heaven as everyone stood in awe of God.
I believe that silence is something that reveres God, actively seeking to make much of him and less of us. We see this in 1 Kings 19:9-13, as Elijah is seeking the Lord. Scripture tells us, however, that God wasn’t in the strong wind, earthquake, or fire. Instead, he was in the gentle breeze. In silence there is peace and a mysterious beauty.
The regular practice of waiting in silence can help shape us into worshipers who lean into God more, fully believing that he is the author and perfecter of our faith. In the midst of stress, anxiety, pain, suffering, joy, success, and even prosperity, we need to be reminded that God reigns over all. What better way to rely on him, than to stop the noise around us and listen to his wisdom and comfort.