Friday, March 13, 2009

Waiting in Silence

My prayer time yesterday took me on an interesting excursion. In my book I describe an experience I had with centering prayer and how, for the first time, I was able be on God's lap, feeling his arms around me, and actually be in the experience, not just looking at it from afar. It was life-changing for me.

From time to time, I return to the daily practice of sitting silent before God, though the form has morphed somewhat from that initial introduction. I get into a comfortable position--sitting in my rocking chair, feet up on a make-shift stool--set a timer for 20 minutes and then, in silent stillness, come before God. To keep my mind from distractions, I choose a truth about God and repeat it. Today that truth was "You are my strong tower, fortress when I'm weak." Yesterday it was from Isaiah 40:31 KJV, "They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength."

It's amazing what God will do when we come to him without an agenda--not asking for anything but simply sitting and waiting for him to reveal himself. I remembered what I posted two days ago, "Seeking God in Silence," and saw the connection: while we sit in silence, we wait and the waiting itself enables us to soar like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint.

I began to do some research and looked for all the places in the Bible that talk about waiting on the Lord. We wait in hope, wait patiently, wait at God's doorway, wait quietly, wait in eager expectation, wait eagerly.* We wait in quiet alertness so we don't miss him when he comes.

We don't wait very well. We want everything in an instant. We also don't like silence but I remembered something about the Quakers and went searching online. Sunday morning meetings for Quakers consist of coming together and sitting in silence for an hour. At the end of the hour, they shake hands and leave. Note what they, and those explaining their silent meetings, have to say about silence:
"...when we are silent, God grants us insights, guidance, and spiritual understanding that is different from what we might realize in our noisy, everyday lives." http://www.redroom.com/publishedwork/holy-silence-the-gift-quaker-spirituality

According to the book Quaker Faith and Practice, the silence "may be just sheer emptiness, absence of words or noise or music. It may be an occasion for slumber, or it may be a dead form. But it may be an intensified pause, a vitalised hush, a creative quiet, and an actual moment of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with God". http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1488488/BBC-to-broadcast-the-Quaker-sound-of-silence.html

[The meetings are] a comfortable togetherness interrupted only if the Spirit moves someone to talk....It is not the silence itself but the expectation that is worthwhile.... [The silence allows] God to say to us who he is. We become teachable in the Spirit within the silence of our souls before the presence of God. http://pluralism.org/news/article.php?id=346

"True silence is ... to the Spirit what sleep is to the body: nourishment and refreshment." William Penn as quoted at http://www.hermitary.com/solitude/quaker_silence.html

The essence of the value of silence, for Quakers as well as for monastics and others, is to free ourselves from influences other than from God. Silence, then, can open ourselves to God and let us truly listen to the Living Christ. http://www.quakerinfo.com/quak_sil.shtml

...silence is our admission that we have broken communication with God and are now willing to listen.... The more silence becomes part of our lives, the less impulsive we become. We are slowed down. Silence can reconcile the contradictions within us holding them in a healthy tension.... The awareness that comes from a grounding in silence allows us to respond more authentically. ...out of the silence, Christ can speak to our condition so we no longer must be captive to sin. Silence can remove the veil between us and the Truth. http://www.quakerinfo.com/silence.shtml

This is the only way to know God. 'Be still, and know that I am God.' 'God is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.' ...as I listened and slowly learned to obey, and shut my ears to every sound, I found after awhile that when the other voices ceased, or I ceased to hear them, there was a still, small voice in the depths of my being that began to speak with an inexpressible tenderness, power, and comfort. http://www.tractassociation.org/Silence.html
"They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. " I need more of that strength. What about you?

*For those who want to repeat this study, check out the following verses:
Psalms 5:3, 27:14, 33:20, 37:7, 34, 40:1, 130:5, 6, Proverbs 20:22, Isaiah 8:17, 26:8, 51:5, 64:4, Lamentations 3:26, Hosea 12:6, Micah 7:7, Romans 8:19, 23, 25, 1 Corinthians 1:7, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 9:28, Jude 21.

Here are more links to information about Quakers and silence:
http://www.journeywithjesus.net/BookNotes/J_Brent_Bill_Holy_Silence.shtml
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/24/religion.uk
http://www.qhpress.org/texts/oldqwhp/gf-e-201.htm
http://www.qhpress.org/quakerpages/qhoa/west.htm
http://www.tractassociation.org/CongregationalSilence.htm
http://www.quaker.org/melodia/silence/
http://www.spiritualitytoday.org/spir2day/853744busch.html
http://theredelectric.blogspot.com/2008/12/out-of-silence-quaker-joy.html
http://www.insighttrails.com/blog/2008/01/practices-culti.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/subdivisions/quakers_print.html

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