What would you do if you walked into church this Sunday and your pastor said that instead of worship and a sermon, the entire time normally devoted to these noisy, active, and entertaining gymnastics we Christians do in the name of honoring, God, would be replaced with silence? No whispering to each other between songs, or during the pastor's sermon (or as I like to call them, the pastor's oral book reports on what he read during the week). What if you were greeted at the door of your sanctuary and were told you could not speak once you entered into the sanctuary? Not even to direct your family, or greet your brothers and sisters? Absolute, total silence was to be observed the entire time? Would you stay, or would you take offense and leave? Hey there's always a coffee shop, diner, or cafe' located near a church--if not in it. You could grab a bite to eat before heading home.
If you did decide to stay, how well do you think you could hold out with the, 'no talking' rule? Our culture is so programmed to speak and interact with one another vocally, that children who are shy, introverted, or slow to develop speaking skills are treated as anomalies and sent for treatment in order to normalize them. It doesn't fair much better for grown introverts either but that's not the topic of today's post. Today, we are learning the value of silent contemplation of God, who He is, and who we are supposed to be as being a created in the image of our creator, and how we are to have relationship with Him. See, the bible was not written to prove the existence of, God, but rather to show us how to have relationship with, Him.
In The Rule of St. Benedict, we see an example of how the oratory is to be treated. An oratory is a place of prayer. A place where ONLY prayer...silent prayer, is to occur.
Chapter 52: On the Oratory of the MonasteryLet the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer;
and let nothing else be done there or kept there. (Emphasis mine.)
When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any sister who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another's misconduct. And at other times also, if anyone should want to pray by herself, let her go in simply and pray, not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart. She who does not say her prayers in this way, therefore, shall not be permitted to remain in the oratory when the Work of God is ended, lest another be hindered, as we have said.
How many times have you sat quietly in church hoping to enjoy some silent contemplation before service only to be interrupted by someone who thought you looked lonely sitting there by yourself and they just had to come over and interrupt your revery to say, 'hi'?
Why are we so afraid of silence in church?
Matthew 6:7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Yes, the bible does tell us to sing loud and proud, to lift up our voices, but it also instructs us that there is a time and season for everything under heaven...even a time for silence. Yet in modern churches, Sunday service has turned into a cacophony of people making an effort to be heard over one another. Brothers and sisters moaning and crying out. One sings loud, so the another sings louder. The people who are rude enough to speak during worship are clueless enough to try and speak over the singing. One time when I was singing on stage, I could hear the women in the front row talking to each other!
I kept looking at them but they did not get my mental telepathy to be quiet.
We are so used to making noise in church that one popular contemporary Christian vocal artist even wrote a song about not singing to God because he knew that was not what God wanted. If he knew that wasn't what God wanted, why did he write a whole song about it?
Since it is unlikely that churches will quiet down enough to hear the voice of God clearly any time soon, what is the person to do who desperately needs a quiet place to connect with their creator?
Create one in your home. You can create open heavens in your home. An open heaven is a spot that has been prayed up. Like the altars of old used by Abraham, Jacob, and other forefathers of the bible, you can create a prayed up spot in your home that is quiet and peaceful.
Like the example given in the Rule of St. Benedict, however, it should be a place in which nothing else happens. Now, you might think this is too difficult of a task to do in the limited space of your home, but you do not need to create a cathedral in a few square feet of space.
What you are doing is creating a space for reverent prayer, and quiet contemplation. This is not the same place where you play worship music, do crafts, sew, etc.. Although you may wish to 'break ground' on your new place of interaction with the Lord by playing worship music there for a while to create a welcoming atmosphere, once you get settled in, it should be a place of quiet. Go back and re-read the Rule above so that you can get an understanding of the type of setting you are creating. For some, the setting is as grand as building a structure set aside specifically for this one task for reaching out to the presence of the Lord. For others, it is as humble as a small chair they bring out of its storing area (where it is kept when not being used for prayer so as not to make the mistake of using it to stand on to change out a light bulb or to sit in to snap peas--it is ONLY used for this one purpose) to sit in while they pray silently. You are not reading, singing, talking, surfing the net, sending texts, listening to children or thinking of the next task at hand.
The sole purpose for this time, and space, is to connect with the divine presence of, God the creator.
In eastern religions, you will see the devote set up a mediation room. There are no other objects in that room other than those devoted to the single act of meditating. I took a tour of the McAfee house here in the mountains of Colorado when it was on market and the realtor was having an open house. This man was/is so into meditation that he had several sites on his property devoted to the task of mediation.
I am not at all promoting eastern religion but merely showing the devotion of one man who understood the need for quiet in a noisy world. Yes, he was/is praying to the wrong deity, but I can't fault him on his level of commitment.
For all the talk in the Christian community about not being legalistic in our worship of God, why are so many Christians leaving church to go to more structured, pagan religions? We are made in the image of God who is not a God of chaos but a God of order. Chaotic church services, worship, and prayer are outside of the order and spirit of God. There is something positive to be said about; discipline, reverence, dedication, commitment, etc.. How is it that we who were created in the image of the Creator, allow ourselves to be so easily distracted from actively seeking, Him?
Whether it's a physical structure, a room in your home or a chair dedicated to the task, I hope you will begin to purposefully set aside a few minutes each day to grow closer to the Lord. If you call it quiet time, then let it be a quiet time for you and God to connect.