Speech is a gift from God – something to celebrate. It’s good to talk to others. It’s good to talk to God. But it’s also appropriate, from time to time, to sit before God and be silent. To not talk. To just sit and wait on the Lord. And to do nothing but trust. “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab 2:20). “For God alone my soul waits in silence” (Ps 62:5). “There was silence in heaven for about half and hour” (Rev 8:1).
In our relationship with God, we find it easier to talk than to remain silent. Silence is hard, for silence demands attentiveness. Silence doesn’t mean daydreaming. Silence means being attentive to the God who is Spirit, to the God that we cannot see. And silence requires radical trust, because when we sit in silence, all we do is pay attention and wait. We remember our powerlessness and we cultivate trust in the One who has power. In silence, we remember that we are not in control. We come before the Father who knows our needs before we ask (Mt 6:8), the God who has every one of our hairs numbered (Mt 10:30). In silence we just “show up.” Our silence speaks. With our whole being, our attentive silence says “Here am I; send me” (Is 6:8).
Silence isn’t reserved for mystics and gurus. It’s a practice central to the Christian life. Like I said, words are good. But silence trains us to speak words that are edifying and meaningful. Silence teaches us not to “curse those who are made in the likeness of God” (Jas 3:9). Silence helps us avoid “heaping up empty phrases” (Mt 6:7). Silence brings us closer to Jesus, who when falsely accused by the high priest “was silent and did not answer” (Mk 14:61). Don’t get me wrong - there is by all means a time to speak. But there is also “a time to keep silence” (Ecc 3:7).
FOR TODAY: Try spending a few minutes in silence before God. It will be hard. It’s easier to talk or to daydream or to turn on our i-pod than it is to sit and be attentive to God. But it will be rewarding if we persist in this practice. Think about Elijah. God wasn’t revealed in the hurricane or the earthquake or the fire, but in a “still small voice” (1 Ki 19: 11-12). Hearing that voice requires silence.