The spiritual practice of silence is easy enough to define: You find a place where there is no noise, no talking, no sound at all; just you and God. The idea is that all of your thoughts and concentration are upon His glorious presence. What do you do next?

Nothing, nothing at all.

At this point, the research indicates more than one approach: some say that you pray, others say that you meditate, still others say that you try to see God in your mind… and still others say that you clear your mind entirely and just sit in silence thinking nothing at all. If I’m honest with you, I’d have to say that this doesn’t work too well for me because when I try to clear my mind like that, then my mind is full of clearing itself, which isn’t really all that clear. What I find useful sometimes is to pray first, and then to remain in silence while I await an answer, which often comes.

Strictly speaking, is that the real method of the Classical Spiritual Discipline of Silence?

That answer depends entirely upon who you ask.

Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, then you surely know that I’m no stickler for tradition, and I’m not all that “classical” in my approach to things. In my view, and please feel free to disagree, I think that a number of spiritual practices are best when combined together, as I did with my example of prayer followed by silence.  Come to think of it, prayer, solitude and meditation all require silence… as does study as we’ve described it. And doesn’t silence also require solitude?

OK, now you can see why I’m not such a stickler for details of this sort.

I think silence is a wonderful thing, if for no other reason that the 21st century is so loud. We are always surrounded by noise from traffic, from other people, from televisions, radios, stereos, headphones, telephones, notification sounds from electronics… We know that God is still there in all of our noise, but He is so much easier to discern in silence.

Then of course, there is the noise of our own thoughts; I have things to do, where are my keys, bills are almost due, the car is making a funny noise, I think I forgot something at the store… next time I see so and so I’m giving him a piece of my mind, I’m going to tell him…

Oh yes, silence is a wonderful thing, you see silence is very much about being silent, for how else can we hear God?

I’d really be curious to hear what you think about this one…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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33 Responses to Silence

  1. Deb says:

    This truly touches my practice of silence and solitude.
    Prayer for me is a mandatory beginning for everything I wish to enter.
    The silence is found for me, in the breath.
    The living breath sooths…has a rhythm that matches the vibration of God, for me.
    This “calms” the thinking mind..and brings a unity of heart/mind .
    Through this awareness…the breath allows my listening to elevate.
    Listening then becomes the way to gratitude. I am able to feel that purpose of listening…not so much to get an answer ..but to offer a space to witness my response to not knowing…and focus on the allowing myself to feel the guidance…the next step…
    For me…it is arriving to the breath…
    Thank you Don for this post. GOD BLESS ….Namaste’

  2. I think that in our busy world silence is one of the keys to abiding in Christ. I spend a timed period in silence before I pray. If my mind is really distracted I try to spend a few minutes reading or listening to the Word.

  3. jessicamaymoore says:

    Right on!

  4. Amy Blount says:

    Silence is a hard thing to come by for us moms of little ones. I think sometimes the Lord hollers to me through the noise of our daily grind.

  5. Mirjam says:

    Great and such important post.

    I was born in the sixties and grew up without a TV in my bedroom. Later on the phones became cordless and now we can take them everywhere we go, yes, by now we can even take the internet along. I feel sorry for the younger generation for almost never and nowhere having a break of that modern invention…

    But what really got me in this post were your words „Then of course, there is the noise of our own thoughts;“ How true! This so often a battle during my morning devotions…

    Thank you for this post, Don. Blessings from Ireland!

    PS: The LORD works in such amazing ways, eh? Last Sunday, during worship service, I was reminded to „Be still and know that He is God.“

  6. Hearing the “still small voice of the Lord” doesn’t necessarily need silence, but rather PRACTICE. You need practice, practice, practice; which means you need to be focused on the Lord (the Holy Spirit) speaking and most times, it is what touches your heart/mind and lines up with Scripture. In this world of “busy-ness” which the Lord KNEW would be, real silence is like “pure” water, it is precious but rare! As with so many things in our relationship with the Lord, it just requires the willingness to do. And do, and do, until we get it right. Solitude by the way, in the world we live in, does sometimes require “closeting” ourselves and more so if you CAN’T escape the confines of your environment!

    • Don Merritt says:

      Silence and solitude are most assuredly rare for most of us, and terrifying for many of us too. To be closeted away for a period of time might even require us to turn our phones off; we might miss a text or a Tweet!! In former times, people joined convents or monasteries to find silence and/or solitude but today that is more difficult. This, for most of us solitude is fleeting at best…

  7. Gary Fultz says:

    For me the hardest silence to find is (Me) when I am silent. When I am alone (solitude). This discipline can happen on a noisy busy street or in remote wilderness. Kind of like turning the old radio dial for the right station (ya I’m older), I find there is a discipline to hearing Gods voice rather then finding the perfect setting and the right ora, hoping for an existential experience of some kind.

  8. Edward Sosa says:

    What a great topic! As Christians, I think we want to steer clear from “clearing our minds”, but the classic Christian writers give us some great insight to dealing with the noise of our thoughts. Along with beginning prayer with reading God’s word, it seems the time spent in scripture, spiritual reading, or study outside of prayer time helps me greatly in listening to God during meditation. That, and and the regular practice of detachment from things that sort of creep up on me and draw my affections away from Christ. My smartphone is probably the biggest. A couple of books that I really enjoyed on the subject are “The Power of Silence” by Robert Sarah and “Conversation with Christ” by Peter T. Rohrbach. Great post!

  9. Wende Hughson says:

    To put aside all else and focus on the Lord is my “silence”. I find myself better able to come to HIM in praise, gratitude and a true sense of Awe. Names often fall on my heart for intercession at this time as well. Contemplative practices can become acts of mysticism and I take issue here…for HE is clear that He will Not be worshipped this way…it opens spiritual pathways that dont belong to His children.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thank you Wende, I quite agree with your first part, but I admit to being a bit puzzled by the second part. Could you expand on that so that we can see what you mean by “contemplative practices” that lead to “mysticism”? It would help us to better understand your warning and would be appreciated, I’m sure.

      • Wende Hughson says:

        Don, I have studied much on the “new age” mysticism that is infiltrating the Church… as a result of these man-made practices/ disciplines, God’s Holiness has been diluted…I’m sure you know of the “frog in kettle” theory…I have come to greater understanding of not only the inerrancy of His Word, but the Sufficiency of it. The whole of Deuteronomy speaks to this as Moses is speaking to those entering the promise land. I look to the Bible for direction in my worship. Contemplatives such as Rohr and Foster use techniques of ancient practices of man that we are worned against in Deut. And all over the New Testament. I must look up, not in. For there is nothing good in me. Does this make any sense?

        • Don Merritt says:

          Yes it does. That is where I thought you were headed, but since both “contemplation” and “mysticism” can lead in more than one direction, I thought it would a good idea to be clear for those who read this. Thank you so much for the reply!

  10. photojaq says:

    It might be “dangerous” to open you mind to meditation. (What a sneaky way for the devil to put untrue things inside.) I think a better thing to do is to focus on God – one of his attributes, a reason you are grateful for Him, a praise or promise verse from the Bible. Perhaps sing a hymn or praise song quietly or to yourself. And wait. But beware of not only outside personal thoughts (problems etc.) but of devilishly half-true ideas.

    • Don Merritt says:

      “I think a better thing to do is to focus on God – one of his attributes, a reason you are grateful for Him, a praise or promise verse from the Bible.”

      Ironically, this is very near the heart of the Classical Christian Spiritual Practice of Meditation: Stay tuned 🙂

  11. I’m learning and appreciating the gift of silence the older and deeper I get. To really think about it that’s when I hear Jesus the most

  12. Amen. You are exactly right. Our silence lets us hear God’s voice. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Thank you for this post. Silence is definitely key to hearing God and being in sync with Him. Holy Spirit gave me the word ‘Abide’ for this year. After 40 years of getting up every morning to spend time with Elohim, I am still learning how to BE with Him.
    I’ve found that journaling helps me dial down and clear the clutter. I spend the first bit of time thanking Him for who He is and seeing me through to another day. I write this all out as in a letter to Him. If I have questions, I write them out and then I ask Him if there is anything He wants to share with me. It often becomes a dialogue. Other times I spend extended times waiting expectantly in silence, just enjoying His presence.
    Since my family has always been one to get up early, I’ve made it a practice with Holy Spirit help, to be up between 3-4:30 before the rest of the household hits the floor. That time of silence and communion is always the best part of any day.

  14. Doc Arnett says:

    Me and my bike and thirty or forty miles of south central Kansas backroads; that’s my approach. I may leave with my mind spinning and tumbling or I may head out without too much gnawing at me. Between prayer, the sound of my tires on the pavement and the rolling prairie, by the time I get home, I’ve found my peace…

  15. magsmontreuil says:

    Silence as a spiritual practice is being restfully present to God in an attitude of expectation and listening, open to discern God’s voice, smile, love, or whatever comes. The main idea is to be quiet within too, and to enjoy His company.

  16. I’m not sure “silence” in the absolute sense is possible. Yes, leaving the noise of the world. Yes, silencing the stream of thoughts in our head. But what is left is a sound or a voice–call it God’s if you want. But a question for you: Is this experience true for everyone? Are there people who only find absolute silence after all extraneous sounds are eliminated? A frightening prospect.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Of course I can’t say much of anything for everyone, but I do know people who have a quiet room in their homes that is set aside for prayer and contemplation. We’re all different and relate to God differently, and I think that’s why there are many spiritual practices. I’ve never met anyone who finds all of them useful and not everyone does any given one of them the exact same way. The important is for each of us to draw closer to God, not to follow an ideal method or check off a list of practices to make sure we have them all covered. I hope that helps.

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