We fear what we do not know

Time with God is never a waste of time! It’s a key part of our worship.

“Quiet in the house!”

The urban world where most of us live seems to become noisier by the day. I live in Singapore where, like millions of others, I have a small apartment stacked in a sea of high-rises. There’s constant construction, road work, babies crying and voices shouting. Our daily commutes in constant traffic or the echoes of a concrete jungle might seem beyond our abilities to change. Millions of people wear earbuds hour after hour, while radios and TVs blare 24/7. Few urbanites seldom—if ever—experience the restorative, recalibrating power of outer and inner silence that fosters the solitude and calmness needed to centre ourselves on God. 

There are numerous references to silence in Scripture. Habakkuk says that, when we contemplate the utter otherness of God Almighty, nothing more can be said (2:20). At Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:4-5), Peter was rebuked by God for disrespecting the silence due. And in John’s vision of heaven (Revelation 8:1), he wrote, “When [the elder] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (ESV). Amidst the purest worship imaginable, what must that silence have been like?

We fear what we do not know

Why is it that evangelical churches are afraid of silence? We are defined by the so-called quality of our noise and activity, with no thought of contemplative, meditative exercises, even though prophets, priests and kings modelled that. 

More and more cultures place efficiency as the measure of success. OM in its formative years championed action over contemplation: Distributing more literature or showing more Jesus films was more important that solitude and reflection.

Happily, our perspective in OM has matured, and more of our gatherings include considerable time to be silent and reflect upon scripture. I encourage every OMer and team to embrace periods of silence together and individually. If possible, this should be open-ended—not one agenda item among many but perhaps as a closing session for the day. 

On Logos II, we set aside one morning weekly in which everyone was silent. It was amazing. (It was also one of the rare times you could hear the ship’s generators.)

There’s more to embracing silence than cutting out noise for its own sake. Silence leads us to declutter our minds and free us from distractions and supposedly urgent things. After all, what could be more urgent than time with our Father?

Simple steps

We can begin practicing the spiritual discipline of silence by learning from practices encouraged at spiritual retreats. Consider the following simple steps:

  • Wean yourself from daily bondage to digital devices. 
  • Redeem little moments (e.g., waiting for others, queuing up) to be really present.
  • Create a quiet place reserved for anyone needing space.
  • Live an entire day without words (including texting).
  • Set aside one day quarterly to reorient your life goals.

Make this practice a lifestyle habit; it takes discipline to devote ourselves as we come to Him in expectation. You may need several days to prepare your mind and lay aside daily pressures and people. It also takes time for your body to slow down. Don’t let this be a time to catch up with work or study. Take long walks. Pray aloud if you can. And stay away from the internet!

Remember also to wait on God. Don’t assume that He’s obligated to immediately respond. Numerous times in the Bible, people had to wait for long periods of time for His response, even years.

Finally, keeping a journal can be helpful. It’s important to remember how God has been with us in the past and continues to be with us today (and into the future).

Time with God is never a waste of time! It’s a key part of our worship. Our Father, who speaks in the gentle whisper in 1 Kings 19:13 has so much to tell us. Training ourselves in the grace of silence to hear Him better is so worth it.

Global Perspectives
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