Life itself demands a rhythm. It may be fast, moderate or slow. But life seeks rhythm. Sleep… wake… sleep… rest… work… rest… stop…go…stop. Such is our life – a rhythm, and we are either in sync or out of sync. Most of us understand what takes place when things have no natural flow. Nature has that rhythm. Light… dark…light… dark. The changing seasons of weather and such are part of God’s natural creative rhythm. If the idea that God’s creation and life are divine then it is quite probable that we could and probably should use this paradigm for other essential elements of our life.
Our daily prayer habit is one such element that seeks natural and divine rhythm. Most of us do not consider the application as a possibility. But yet, when prayer is biblically contemplated and given thoughtful consideration it becomes obvious that there is more needed. The rhythm of prayer is frequently contrary to much of what we require of ourselves as well as what others often expect of us. The key to the rhythm of prayer is not what you expect. It is not eloquence or tone; it is not even wisdom or faith. It is silence. When practiced in prayer it goes like this; silence… speak…. silence… speak. This represents the repeated rhythm of God’s words first and then our words second. When we practice silence or stillness in prayer we allow ourselves to learn the limitations of human resource and verbosity. Sometimes we enjoy hearing ourselves talk too much. Silence forces us to engage our faith in the divine limitlessness of God and His word. Our words during prayer can and do represent different things such as need, hope, praise, adoration etc… but our words always make our prayer take a shape or a form, a silhouette or definition. This is not always a bad thing, but it certainly is not always the best thing. Too often our most well intended words can limit or shrink God to our ideas. If we pray to God “not our will but your will be done” and then do not listen for His will, then our words in fact have limited our ability to do God’s will. The silence is necessary because it allows us to experience God not confined or defined by form, shape or boundary. God is free to release His grace on our spirit, which fill us with His uncreated energy and thought.
Silence is not just “awkward space” or the moment that we are to figure out what to say next. Silence is not punishment for misbehaving. But rather, it can be the time when we are taught “how to speak and when.” It is also the time in which we can learn to communicate without words and understand without knowledge those things that are above words and knowledge. I learned an Old Russian Orthodox prayer that began with the words, “I am silent before Thy will and Thy unfathomable ways for me.” After praying those words it is obvious the only appropriate natural and obedient response would be some form of stillness and silence.
The early church fathers and saints taught that perfect communion is beyond words. They taught that love’s favorite language is silence. Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Speech is too often not as the French men defined it, the art of concealing thought… but of stifling and suspending thought, so that there is none to conceal. Speech too is great, but not the greatest.” Or, consider the infamous Swiss inscription, “Sprechen ist silbern, schweigen ist gulden.” One of my favorite ancient writers St. Isaac the Syrian said, “Speech is of time, silence is of eternity.” We should read the following scripture in our careful consideration of this subject and then set aside time to write the thoughts and inspiration we might receive from God speaking to us. Remember… silence - speak, silence – speak, silence…
“Silence is the reverence and the awe that is appropriate for an encounter with the Divine.”
In peace let us pray to the Lord.