Disclaimer: I want anyone reading this to realize that most of what I post is born out of my own weakness and failures. This is definitely the case with the topic today.

Silence As A Spiritual Discipline

Life is busy. As a husband, father, pastor, and student I feel like every second of ever day is filled with responsibilities and obligations. When responsibilities pile up you have to set priorities. It is only through discipline that you can ever hope to maintain any sort of walk with Christ in the midst of all the chaos of life. When I think of spiritual disciplines my mind goes to things like prayer, having personal time in the Word, and scripture memorization. I know that’s not anywhere near an exhaustive list of spiritual disciplines, but it’s the most prominent ones I usually think of. That list changed for me about two years ago to include silence. This is something my mentor taught me was a necessity for peace and sanity.  So what do I mean by silence?

When I say silence I mean it literally. I take time in my day to unplug. No computers, no cell phones, no music, no tv, nothing that I can focus on to distract me. I don’t even read in this time except occasionally the Bible when I really feel the need. I take this time to decompress. I can sit in a cool dark place and just think about things and pray. I believe there is a difference between this type of time, and normal time throughout your day that you may spend in prayer. You may be thinking about now, “That’s great for you, but why should I make this a discipline?”

Psalm 46

God Is Our Fortress

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth.[a] A Song.

46 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[b] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

In this psalm we are reminded that God is our refuge. He is a fortress for our protection. A refuge is a place where one hides in a time of need. It is a place of waiting. No matter who is pursuing you, no matter what is happening in the world, you wait and you hide in your refuge. The psalmist boasts of the confidence he has in God as his refuge saying, “we will not fear.” Even if the very earth gives way and the mountains are cast into the sea, even as the waters rage and foam and the mountains tremble. The psalmist is content in his refuge even as he watches the oceans swallow the mountains, and as the entire working of the world is thrown into chaos. He will not fear because God is his refuge. But note that in the midst of all this turmoil, the author is not in the water, nor is he on the mountains, nor is he found anywhere at all in the tumultuous upheaval of existence. He is resting, hiding in the refuge of God. Then later in verse 6 we see another glimpse of the power in which God rules and is able to offer us refuge. Nations rage and kingdoms are overthrown, but at the very voice of the Lord the earth melts. God makes wars to cease and destroys the instruments of war. In the midst of the chaos of the world God calls out to the warring nations and utters these words, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the Earth!” Then the psalmist concludes that God is with us and that he is our fortress.

I look at this psalm and I can’t help but to draw parallels in my life. The chaos of my life can seem overwhelming at times. If I’m not careful I can easily find myself on the mountain drowning in the ocean instead of being still in the fortress of God. In a world that is more connected and fast paced than any time in history the words “be still” fall on deaf ears. Success and productivity seem to hinge on the  very fact that we are never still. But there is a great need in our lives to take refuge in God. To hear his call to be still and obey. It is in these times of silence and stillness that we experience the peace of God most vividly. Our relationship with God is not well-built on rushed prayers spoken with little thought or exertion of our souls. It is in times of silence and reflection that we pour out our souls to God in prayer and truly find refuge. It is in our silence that we proclaim our weakness. When we are still we declare that we cannot achieve our goals by our own action. When we are still we are trusting in God to take action on our behalf. I think of the words of Martin Luther when he said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
Martin Luther

Silence has indeed proven itself a worthy spiritual discipline in my life, and I sorely regret it when I neglect it. So take some time today, even if it’s just 15 minutes, and spend time in silent prayer and reflection. I promise it will not distract from your ministry. It will actually aid it.

Soli Deo Gloria