When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the Lord.
C. S. Lewis, in his book The Weight of Glory wrote of our urgent need for silence: “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private; and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” Long before iPods, cell phones, Pandora radio, and the other wonderful, but incessant, insistent noisy communication, Lewis felt silence slipping away from the culture. It was only by “fasting” from some of the noise that I realized how spiritually and emotionally I had been crying out for some silence.
I will confess that there was no one who appreciated more the ability to plug into all the news of the world at the click of my computer, or to touch an icon on my smart phone, or to command the best in music on Pandora or iPod. But I found I was forgetting how to go for a walk with just silence, or how to work out while listening for my own thoughts. Like William Wordsworth I was feeling “the world too much with us; late and soon”, and loosing my aptitude for listening to the still, small Voice. I was ignoring God’s command to be still, and to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
I have taken today’s Scripture text from the Book of Revelation, which is second only to the Psalms for inspiring and leading us in worship. In the midst of today’s prophecy frenzy we forget that the Book of Revelation is foremost an instructional manual for how to live in God’s presence in the midst of the world’s tribulations and noise.
The Book of Revelation encourages us to emulate the saints above in their worship of God and the Lamb. We must note in the text the silence in heaven before the angel presents the prayers of God’s people before the throne. The text echoes the command of God through the prophet: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the world keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). Like David we must learn to say: “For God alone my soul waits in silence” (Psalm 62:1). Better than most of her contemporaries, Mother Teresa modeled active engagement with the needs of the world growing out of much time spent with God. She spoke constantly of our need for silence if we are to worship God, and to serve Him in others. In her book, In the Heart of the World, Mother Teresa wrote:
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa was but one voice among many across the history of the church who spoke out for the need for silence in our lives. Like the many who have gone before us she knew that silence is the basic spiritual practice, and why the world, the flesh, and the devil, so fight against it!
Allow me to suggest that we try something. How about trying five minutes of silence in the morning, and five minutes in the evening, and see how this can help set the rhythm across the day.
Grace, peace, and silence,
photo by Rita Smith