A Both-And from the Sermon on the Mount (Silence X)
Jesus seems to indicate two general ways in which we will find silence for our souls. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus invites us out of worry and anxiety and into bringing our full selves to God, who loves us and is enough for each day that we face. Jesus’ master homily provides us with some helpful grounding thoughts as we seek to practice silence. As he invites into abundant life, Jesus tells us not only to “go into our prayer closets,” but also to “consider the lilies of the field.” These different places represent two different ways of strengthening our connection with God through silence. One means sharpening our focus through limiting our senses and the other means sharpening our focus by fully immersing our senses. Both of these approaches can lead to a deeper awareness of God’s goodness.
Going into a closet to pray represents placing yourself somewhere where you can focus without distraction. Where might that be for you? Put your smartphone away and place your body in a comfortable position that communicates your own longing response to God’s longing for you—kneeling, perhaps. Then engage a prayer exercise or pray slowly through the Lord’s Prayer (also, not surprisingly, from the Sermon on the Mount).
But again, Jesus doesn’t just tell us to pray in our prayer closet; he also directs us to place ourselves where we can encounter his goodness through the world around us. How else can you “look at the birds of the air” or “consider the lilies of the field?” I practice “looking” and “considering” by walking early in the morning, which helps me tune into the whisper of God’s Spirit. When I take my daughter on her morning walk (so that my wife can get some much-needed and well-deserved sleep), I not only get to be in nature while I’m caring for my daughter, but I also have time and space to be quiet in a way that brings me back to my center, where I can meet with God. I usually pray with words during this time, but I often start by simply saying, “Father” (the first word of the Lord’s Prayer), and then being quiet as I walk. As I seek to tune into God’s goodness, the ordering of thoughts that usually follows is amazing. It’s amazing, the way God’s Spirit seems to literally speak through the wind in the trees. I may continue to pray through the phrases of the Lord’s prayer, but I make sure to go nice and slow, leaving plenty of space for God to commune with me—whether I am fully aware of how that is happening or not.
Of course, in the next season of life, even a few months from now, my daughter will be older and this rhythm of life will be literally outgrown. That’s why we must be creative, always adjusting to new seasons of life while maintaining our commitment to unhurriedness and silence so that we don’t drift too far from ourselves and from the hand of our Father. The goal, always, is not to practice solitude and silence for their own sake, but rather to practice connecting with God and putting our hand in His. This is what empowers us to live as disciples and to live our lives for others. While I seek to stay in the spirit of prayer all day, I exit these specific moments of prayer by asking, “Jesus, help me love as you do this day” and “What are we up to together?”
Find the rhythm that works for you and approach silence seeking to encounter the movements of “grace within me,” grounding you in adoption, as well as “grace through me,” an empowering to love others.
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 Matthew 5-7.
 Matthew 6:6 and Matthew 6:28.
 For more on the Lord’s Prayer, see “A Practical Order for Daily Prayer” in ‘Chapter 12: Prayer.’