For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock
and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
Psalm 62: 1-2
I like watching people! We are a fascinating species! I especially enjoy watching a couple (delete out) on their first date. I sense that things might be going well for the couple when I see conversation back and forth, an easy repartee. One of them serves up a topic and the other returns it without a miss. I get nervous for them when there are long stretches of silence.
If the first date goes well for them and matures into love, the couple will actually enjoy long stretches of silence in their times together. They will cherish riding in a car together and not having to say anything for miles. They will enjoy sitting together in the evening without a word spoken. They will simply enjoy each other’s presence.
So it is as we grow and mature in our prayer life with God. Both God and we come to enjoy long stretches of silence, comfortable with being with each other. We relax in the warmth of love. Prayer now becomes more than having words to say. John Calvin believed “the best prayers are sometimes without utterance.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 20) C. S. Lewis thought wordless prayers to be the best. (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer) In Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, the senior demon warns his pupil demon, Wormwood: “Music and silence – how I detest them both.”
Ole Hallesby, a Norwegian theologian and pastor, wrote a modern prayer classic in which he talks about the special moments of being silent before God:
There come times, not so seldom with me at last, when I have nothing more to tell God. If I were to continue to pray in word, I would have to repeat what I have already said. At such times it is wonderful to say to God: “May I be in Thy presence Lord? I have nothing more to say to Thee, but I do love to be in Thy presence.” (Prayer)
Perhaps you have run out of words in your praying, and you just want to be with God. You can, like the psalmist in today’s text, sit silently with your God: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”
Lectio Divina is an ancient way of Christian prayer that roots our prayers in God’s Word while ushering us into restful silence before Him. The four steps of Lectio Divina are:
- READ slowly and thoughtfully a short Scripture passage. Listen for God speaking to you through the words of Scripture. Watch for a word or phrase that stands out to you, that especially speaks to you.
- REFLECT or meditate on what you have just read, paying special attention to that word or phrase that spoke to you. Allow God to speak to you in your meditation on His Word.
- RESPOND or talk with God about the thoughts and feelings arising from your meditation. Make this a real dialogue with God as you talk with Him and listen for His word to you.
- REST or let yourself just be silent with God. You don’t have to say anything or do anything. Experience the “rest” that Jesus promises to those who follow Him. The old monks called this “lap time with God” as we just let ourselves be with Him. No words needed here, no effort, no trying to please, or trying to make something happen. Just let yourself be with God!
- Using the four steps of Lectio Divina (READ, REFLECT, RESPOND, AND REST), pray Psalm 46: 1-3, 1:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult… “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
“Precisely because the Lord is present with us, we can relax and let go of everything, for in his presence nothing really matters, nothing is of importance except attending to him.”
Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home