If prayer is conversation with God, where does silence fit in? Is silence in prayer a gap in the conversation, or a time to listen and connect? How comfortable are you with silence?
In Isaiah 30:15, God says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” In his great book on prayer “Following the Prayer Paths of Jesus,” John Indermark says, “We ignore returning and rest at our own risk: the risk of running on empty, of assuming everything depends on us, of exhausting energies and spirit, of failing to discern God’s presence through the fog of activity.” Later on, he points out that “Jesus’ prayers in solitude create the context from which his activist ministry proceeds.”
Silence in prayer takes some practice, and some getting used to. Our lives are full of noise. We are so uncomfortable with silence that we work with music playing, turn on the music or the television the minute we walk in the door of our house, drive with the radio on, and even buy machines to make “white noise” to help us sleep. In our “connected” world, we are constantly communicating, on the phone, on the computer, in conversation and collaboration. There is very little silence, and sitting in actual quiet, with no artificial sound whatsoever can be disconcerting. It makes us feel a little un-anchored, set adrift.
It’s important to remember that in prayer, we should not be doing all the talking. We can sometimes hear best when we do feel a bit set adrift, without our usual props and supports. Periods of silence are important, both for listening for God speaking to us in the quiet, and for rest and healing.
This year my Lenten fast is noise. I am setting aside scheduled periods of time in my day and my week to turn everything off and experience the peace and presence of God in the quiet. I included visual “noise,” and removed everything from my prayer space at home so that it is plain and empty for the next 40 days. I am looking forward to finding strength in the quietness and trust, as God promised in Isaiah. I invite you to try this, too, and see what you find in the silence.
Resurrection Prayer Ministry