Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I just read an article in Real Simple magazine about the benefits of practising silence. Of course it was from the secular viewpoint. A few minutes of dedicated quiet each day reduces stress levels and offers a way to appreciate things that are otherwise lost in the noise of life. The feelings of relaxation, peace and clarity through silence are all very appealing. But the purpose of external silence is to encourage the development of internal silence.
What good is silence? Why the quote, "Silence is golden" (not a biblical quote but a good one nonetheless)? The act of silence is necessary for physical and spiritual restoration. Silence is defined as the absence of sound; stillness; without speech or noise. Spending time in quiet, stillness and silence is very healing. It's a time when you can collect your thoughts and pray and meditate on God. Practising silence daily is a good habit to develop.
In this day, we are surrounded by noise. TV's, radios, mp3 players, everyone talking, cell phones ringing, cars honking... there is little silence. We must make time for silence and solitude. Jesus did.
Mark 1:35 And rising up quite early in the night, He went out and went away into a deserted place, and He was praying there.
Luke 6:12 And it happened in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and He was spending the night in prayer to God.
Jesus enjoins us to find a quiet place for prayer.
Matthew 6:6 But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.
We need to practise silence and solitude in order to remove the distractions that get in the way of communicating with God. The devil loves to distract us from prayer and communing with God! Sometimes I notice that when I try to sit down with the Bible for my devotions, or my "quiet time", things really get noisy or demand my attention. I know it's the devil deliberately trying to interrupt my time of communion with God. It takes willpower to stop the noise and the interruptions and center our focus on our Lord!
Think about it... You can easily concentrate on the 6:00 news; you give your attention to your child's demands without a struggle; you can focus on that new book you got from the library ("I couldn't put it down"), but you can't spend 10 mins with God. Suddenly you can't concentrate, you read the same scripture over and over again without getting any meaning from it, you can't pray because your thoughts are too jumbled. Don't try to tell me it's not a spiritual attack. But we don't have to surrender. We can fight back. And whenever I do, I soon realize that I get more from my time with God! Fighting back leads to extra blessing from my time with God!
Silence doesn't have to mean no thoughts in your head. That is pretty much impossible. Those who promote pagan "meditation" will tell you to concentrate on your breathing and relaxing all your muscles, etc. Those are thoughts. But for Christians, our Christian meditation means concentrating on God and just being with Him. We need to exclude as much distraction as possible. That doesn't mean living in a padded cell or a sound proof booth. Of course, you are going to hear the birds singing or the trash truck coming down the road. But you practise some solitude and silence by spending time alone and cutting off the distractions that you have control over. Turn off the TV, close your door, turn off the radio, tell your family that you need some alone time, don't acknowledge the doorbell or dryer dings, and don't just take a nap. Use your willpower, discipline yourself. I find it always helpful to start my quiet time by reading the Bible whether it's a spontaneous scripture or picking up where I left off in a study. Then I go into prayer and meditation.
If you find it is too hard to cull out that alone time or to concentrate on God... then maybe you need something more drastic. Some people take silent retreats. Again, this is NOT just to go by yourself on a vacation. It's NOT just time to be by yourself by the beach with a good book. Not that there is anything wrong with this but a silent retreat has one purpose... to remove yourself from distractions so that your focus becomes God. Shutting out distractions, staying silent yourself and focusing. This is why many monasteries practise silence as part of their worship of God.
Some people fast in silence. They decide not to speak throughout the day and to cut off any technology that distracts them. Be sure to tell your family what's going on and then do it! Keep the TV off, the computer off, the radio off, don't read anything but the Bible and be quiet! This type of fasting and silent retreats are ways to discipline yourself so that it becomes easier to put yourself in that mindset for a little while each day during your quiet time. Remember, this is NOT just for your good but, guess what? The result is for your good. Pagan silence and meditation is focusing on yourself and trying to achieve peace without God. But Christian silence and meditation focuses on God but the consequence of taking your thoughts off of yourself is the peace of God. Not only do you get to spend time with God and praying about all the stuff on your mind, but you will experience more godly peace and a calmer day! It's a spiritual blessing that is side effect. When we seek God and put Him first, the Holy Spirit responds with the peace we need.
Psalm 62:1 To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
Psalm 107:28-30 And they cry to Jehovah in their trouble, and He brings them out of their troubles. (29) He makes the storm a calm, so that its waves are still. (30) And they are glad because they are quiet; so He brings them to their desired haven.
Proverbs 1:33 But whoever listens to Me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:...a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Lamentations 3:25-28 Jehovah is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. (26) It is good that one should hope for the salvation of Jehovah, even in silence. (27) It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. (28) He sits alone and keeps silence because He laid it on him.
1 Peter 3:4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
Suggestions for quiet places:
* Your bedroom or bathroom. Tell your family it's time for your quiet time and you don't want to be interrupted. Of course, if you have young children, make sure it's a time when your husband can run interference. And be sure to allow him the same favor by keeping the children occupied while he has his quiet time. Close the door. If you do this for a bubble bath or a good book, you can do this for God.
* Take a walk. You can walk the neighborhood, walk a cemetery, walk around your church parking lot, walk in the park. Just keep your mind focused on God. Cemeteries can be very quiet spots. It's where my husband likes to walk.
* Your church sanctuary or chapel. During business hours, you can ask the church receptionist or pastor for permission to spend alone time in the sanctuary.
* If the weather is moderate then you can spend time in your car. Take your Bible and notebook and sit in the car. You can sit there in the garage or in your workplace parking lot or drive to a safe park.
* Make a stop at the library. Turn your cell phone off and pick a corner to spend your time with God.
* Go out on your patio, balcony or porch. I have swings and comfortable chairs and I love having my quiet time there. Pick early morning or late day when things are quiet around the house and in the neighborhood.
* Take a few minutes after the children have left for school and sit down at your kitchen table. Just don't let the dirty dishes or the laundry take your attention away.
Another suggestion I have has nothing to do with quiet time with God, but in making quieter choices. For instance, instill quietness in your children. Talk to them about it and try to teach them how to be quiet at times. They have to be children and part of that is running, playing and shouting. But there are times for quietness too and they need to learn how to do it. Choose restaurants that are quieter. If quietness is new to your children, then take them during times when it's not crowded with people looking for a quiet dinner. Go early for dinner or late for lunch and let your children experience a quiet dinner. Chuckecheeses may be fun for them and there are times for that. But there are also times when a quieter atmosphere makes everyone calmer. Practise 30 mins before bedtime for quiet time with your kids. Read them a story, let them read, give them alone time or Mommy/Daddy time. Just let them wind down in peace and quiet. Practise silence yourself. Be an example to your family by showing them that you can turn off the TV and spend time in silence with a good book or talking calmly together.
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