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Re-Arranging Our Lives: The Practice of Silence (Silence IX)

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen.[1]

— Henri Nouwen

Jesus did not relate to quiet time as a task, but rather as way of abiding in the goodness of God. It was about communion, not about a checklist. Jesus actively looked forward to quiet time, because in solitude and silence, he grew in communion with his Father. He kept abiding in that crucial awareness of the Father’s love.

Through practice, we can develop the same posture that Jesus had. When the Scripture says, “Be anxious for nothing” or “Cast your cares” onto God, how do we do that?[2] The answer, quite simply, is practice; it will likely not come easy to us at first. As strange as it may sound, trust is something that we practice until our souls become accustomed to it. Over time, what felt awkward at first can come to feel normal and even natural.

How then, do we practice?

First of all, think about your life and schedule. Do you already engage a practice of silence? Quiet time with coffee in the morning? A regular ritual of quietly walking in the park? Anything that centers your soul in silence is a spiritual discipline. Running can be a spiritual discipline, as can a short walk or a long drive. If you are already engaging solitude and silence in such a way, keep going! The goal is to become aware of God and to be with God, abiding in His whisper.

More than likely, given the busyness of our world, your schedule is fairly full. How then can you prioritize—or keep prioritizing—silence in the midst of modern life?

It may help to start small. Personally, I’m not a big fan of setting clocks and timers for prayer—given my personality, it brings me too close to the rules and regulations of The Human Paradigm than I am comfortable with. However, if you find silence difficult, it may be helpful to try setting those sorts of concrete, doable goals, as they can start to give you a sense of the rhythm. Additionally, don’t discount even brief moments for quiet or silence. It really doesn’t take too much to bring us back to center. A few moments—even a few breaths—can have an immediate impact on our bodies and our spirits. Some people find it helpful to stop three times a day for a time of silence and prayer. Others set aside shorter times every day. Some set aside longer periods a few times a week. It is important to know and respect your personality and to be creative.


For more on this and other transformational topics, click here.

[1] Henri Nouwen. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. HarperOne, 1997. Reading for February 28th.

[2] Philippians 4:6; I Peter 5:7