"So I think I'll stay caught up in silent prayer, I believe in silence our hearts speak the same word."
"Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence."
- T.S. Eliot
- Blindside | Silence
The lyricist and frontman of the band Blindside sings something very true in those lines. How often is it that I am caught up in silent prayer. Prayer without any distractions of noises. Prayer that is so silent and still and alone from all other things that in those moments our hearts speak the same words as God in that He moves in us and speaks to us in the silence and solitude.
Solitude has a great deal to do with getting away from normal distractions in order to quiet oneself and listen for the voice of God. Silence then is a large part of this as well. Foster writes, "Our fear of being alone dries us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrist or fit over our ears so that if no one else is around at least we are not condemned to silence." Giving further instruction on the discipline Foster continues, "We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is not first a place but a state of mind and heart."
So how does one experience or take part in this discipline of solitude? Do we just sit around silent staring at walls or what? "Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence." Our time alone in silence must be intentional. It must be for the purpose of honing in on the supernatural voice of the Creator of the Universe who is longing to speak to us if we are willing to listen. Solitude is a mindset of being.
Foster gives some great advice concerning how to move into a lifestyle that reflects the discipline of solitude. "Discipline yourself so that your words are few and full. Become known as a person who has something to say when you speak." This is something I would like to be marked by. I've known, and know, men who I consider to be plethora's of wisdom when they speak. They may not say much, but when they do you'll wish you had a pen and paper ready to write it down and remember it. Foster challenges the reader to "Try to live one entire day without words at all. Do it not as a law but as an experiment. Not your feelings of helplessness and excessive dependence upon words to communicate. Try to find new ways to relate to others that are not dependent upon words. Enjoy, savor the day. Learn from it." I may try this one before I'm through with this discipline. Keeping a journal of the things God speaks to you in the silence is also recommended.
Overall the spiritual discipline of solitude is designed to strip away the noise in our lives and focus us in on the voice of our God.
For my first experience with the spiritual discipline of solitude I'll be spending 20 minutes "caught up in silent prayer." I've brewed a cup of decaf coffee and I'm planning on just sitting and enjoying it while listening for God to speak. If you would like to participate in this discipline yourself a good way to begin in prayer is to simply pray something like this: "God I'm here. I'm silent in Your presence. I'm here to listen and hear Your voice if You are willing to speak." Then remain silent with your heart tuned in and focused on God's voice and what He has to say to you. Write down what He speaks to your heart.
For starters lets just say I may be the most easily distracted person I know. I've been sitting on my living room floor in silence trying to focus on God's voice with my decaf coffee just as I said I would and it felt like every single distraction possible came my way. My Macbook started making update noises, I had forgotten to turn off the sound so I came over and turned that off. Then my cats wouldn't leave me alone and decided it was time for me to interact with them. So I shooed them away and continued on in my silent prayer. Then every single noise that I normally don't hear because I'm making my own noise seemed like it amplified. The clock on the wall ticked louder than ever, my fish tank's water filter began humming like a bee buzzing around my head and it seemed like even my own heavy breathing was loud enough to distract me. I tried my best over the last 20 minutes to focus in on God's voice. This stuff takes time and practice though so I don't know that I'd call this attempt a failure... simply a step forward in my journey into spiritual disciplines. I may try this discipline again tomorrow morning and perhaps in the afternoon as a rest from the day... we'll see. Blessings.