“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” ~ 1 Kings 19:11-13 (NSV)
During Centering Prayer this week, I was thinking.…wait! Thinking while Centering – isn’t that against the rules? We are told to be quiet and wait for God to transform us in the silence. But sometimes, even when, according to the rules, we shouldn’t pay attention to words and noise, God speaks. What..? It’s true that Centering Prayer is designed to take us beneath the noise into the silence where God dwells within, but I have learned to listen for his voice there. I must be a bit of a rebel. “Be still and know that I am God” is true, but sometimes He insists on talking to me. The Bible shows that God is not as interested in all the rules, even though helpful, as he is in relationship. I want to be aware; I want to notice God and pay attention if he decides to speak into the silence.
It is the becoming still that is the biggest problem, or at least for me, when we are trying to be aware of God. Often he speaks in a whisper or the sound of sheer silence (see scripture above.) The fact is, we can’t still the voices in our heads. Brains aren’t designed that way. But we can silence our minds by not following our constant thoughts down rabbit trails. This does take practice—the practice of returning to silence when we catch our mind in its ADD activities.
There is a story about one of our granddaughters who lived with us when she was small. This granddaughter was an extraverted child who was always talking, talking. Since her grandfather and I are both strong introverts, this was a challenge. One time grandpa said quite firmly, “Please be quiet for a while.” She said, “Ok.” Then without missing a beat, she said, “I will be quiet. I will stop talking. I won’t say anything more. Not at all. Can I talk now?” Sometimes we are like that with God. We plan to be quiet; we think we are being still, but the noise is so loud that we couldn’t hear God if he did talk.
Amazing transformation has happened to me in the last five years since I began silent prayer. I have changed in ways I would never have imagined possible and my life with God is more intimate. Whether we use Centering Prayer or not, some practice of silent awareness is important to our spiritual lives and formation. Ruth Haley Barton said, “Silence is the most needed and the least experienced spiritual discipline among Christians today.”
Help us today, Jesus, to be still. Quiet us as we wait on you in the silence. We want to be with you and listen if you speak. Hush our busy thoughts, and make our hearts and minds aware of your presence. Amen.