A Short Study on the Discipline of Silence

The Shepherd’s House
…my house will be called a house of prayer, healing and joy for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7b)

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

      Remember there is a time for everything… A time to be silent and a time to speak (Eccl.3:7). In our modern world with its continuous noise, the disciples of the Lord Jesus have to re-discover the discipline of silence Psalm 46:10). Without regular times of silence where we silently wait upon the Lord and allow silence to work in us, we will not be able to remain standing against the flood of words that try to submerge us, the opinions of people, and the power of the world and the attacks of the evil one.

      Silence is necessary to shut out all other voices so that we can hear God’s voice. Many voices talk to us all day long: newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, billboards, posters, e-mail, the Internet; the voices of people’s opinions, those in authority, preachers, books we read, our own ambitions and dreams, desires and passions. There are voices from the past: my father’s voice thundering in my ears when I want to do something wrong, a teacher’s reprimand, the mistakes of my past, etc. There are the voices of our culture, our traditions and our community who want to prescribe and decide how we should live. In the silence we will learn to know the voice of the Shepherd. Jesus says: My sheep know my voice. How many of us know His voice? Can we distinguish it from all the other voices in the world?

      Silence can be frightening. In silence I am confronted with my own emptiness, insignificance and finiteness…and at the same time I am forced to face my Lord in that vast emptiness of silence and feelings of insignificance that arise in times of silence. It is in those moments of silence that I realize that only God and I are present in this vast unknown space created by silence. In those moments we must come to terms with the reality that the Lord may choose to speak us or may not to speak us! Regardless wheter He speaks to us or not, we MUST trust (Hab.2:4 – the just shall live by faith in His faithfulness). That is how we meet with God in quietness and trust. (Isa.30:15).

      In silence, in the presence of God we can calm down and “Be still, and know that He is GOD. (Ps.46:10). That is when we learn that it is not always necessary for God to speak to us; that it is not necessary for God to reveal Himself to us; that it is not necessary for God to appear in dreams and visions; to do signs and wonders; and to answer our prayers before we will believe in Him and completely TRUST Him.

      We need silence where all activity and all ‘doing’ stop, where there are no plans, no ambition, no dreams and no expectations – where everything in us is decentralized; until everything is focused and centered on the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Richard Foster in his wonderful book, “Celebration of Disciplines,” writes:
“One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control??? God will take control, but we will never let Him take control until we trust Him. SILENCE is intimately related to TRUST.

      The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation (James 3:1-12). A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding. If I have done some wrong thing (or even some right thing that I think you may misunderstand), and discover that you know about it, I will be very tempted to help you understand my action! Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification. One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier.”

      Silence destroys pride, because silence does not react in anyway to all our words, achievements, works, knowledge, titles and positions. We cannot impress silence with who we are with our achievements. Silence strips us of ourselves and exposes all our pretences and false expectations. Silence diminishes all our ‘big’ works. Imagine what happens if someone runs home to tell his/her parents about something ‘amazing’ that happened to them, and when s/he tells them about this amazing thing, the loud words are greeted with absolute silence? What happens to this ‘big’ thing now? It becomes very small. Silence reduces our big deeds to more or less their actual size and importance.
Silence is often uncomfortable because we are all programmed from childhood to achieve, impress and meet other people’s expectations. Silence reveals our own uncertainty, insecurity, our inability, and forces us to be honest with ourselves. It helps us to see who or what it is that really drives our souls to do the things we tend to do. We need to become silent to the point where everything in us is satisfied with Christ and Christ alone! To do this, we must come to a point where we can be like a small child, satisfied, quiet, without a care and without any plans and without any desires – completely content in Christ ALONE!
BTW, the discipline of silence stimulates creativity. It is in silence that new images, fresh ideas and new plans pop up. Silence and rest break old patterns, old habits, old ideas and old concepts. We cannot communicate meaningfully with others if we do not have times of silence where we can reflect, evaluate, judge and question. This brings renewal, new power, new insight, new courage and new conviction to our lives.

Practical Guidelines to Cultivate the Discipline of Silence

  1. Discipline yourself to be silent for 10 to 30 minutes. Quiet your heart and mind. Just be still and sit quietly before God. Allow God to fill your whole being. This will take some time!
  2. Keep a notebook handy because sometimes you keep on thinking about things you must do later; you can then jot these down so that you don’t forget. Soon you will stop thinking about these ‘urgent matters’ that need your immediate attention and your mind will quiet down.
  3. Give all your desires, worries and burdens to God one by one until your heart is quiet and unconcerned before the Lord. Spend a couple of minutes on this.
  4. The purpose of this time of silence is not to write, not to read the Bible and not listen to music. Just sit quietly before the Lord. Remember that you are NOT trying to listen if God is saying something to you. Your focus is the SILENCE of soul and mind. HOWEVER, if you sense that the Lord is speaking to you, write down what you sense the Lord is saying to you, and continue to be silent again. This discipline of silence is simply for sitting quietly in the presence of God and NOT trying to get Him to do things for us!
  5. After the time of silence you may take your journal and write down your experience, emotions, frustrations and thoughts on this time. As the week progresses you will see how your thoughts and emotions grow and change.
  6. REMEMBER: You are brought to a standstill during these silences and this usually breaks the influence of stress on your life. It allows you to reflect on why and what you are busy with, and it is also a good time to ask yourself these questions:
  • What was the effect of silence on my life?
  •  After experiencing the power of silence, what should change in my life?
  • Now go forth and OBEY the voice of the Holy Spirit you heard in Silence 