The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-ChargeTrinity Episcopal Church, Russellville
October 18, 2012
At times it is hard to hear the sound of silence. With smart phones humming, conversations babbling, music, news, and commercials commanding our attention, our days can be filled with noise. For some these sounds are companions, even to keeping the television on all night while sleeping. Yet, non-stop exterior sound can distract one from listening to the inner silent sounds of the Spirit wishing to be heard. God’s first language, after all, is silence, and without that silence we may miss what God seeks to say to us in the depths of our hearts.
Silence is usually understood as the absence of any sound or noise that the ear might hear. But silence can include silence of the mind and the will as well. Refraining from talk or listening to music may be hard for some, but quieting the mental noise of memory and imagination is much harder. As some have discovered, the “hardest of all is to still the voices of craving and aversion within the will.”
All the miraculous resources of our technological age seem to conspire to keep our ears, minds, and wills perpetually engaged. It can become a collaboration of distraction hindering us from perceiving the intuitions of the Spirit. Turning off sound and letting go of any thought can begin to quiet the mind.
To help with this exercise there is a prayer form known as Centering Prayer that many practice to quiet the imagination, feelings, and rational faculties in order to be engaged with God in pure faith in silence. This contemplative prayer provides a point of communing with God beyond the limitations of words, thoughts, and actions. One simply sits quietly in the presence of God to offer God quality time. This provides an opportunity for the Spirit to pray within us, especially when we don’t know how to pray.
Some have discovered the need to designate time each day to go into their “room and shut the door” and to be silent before God (Matt. 6:6). In this time one turns off the bombardment of advertising that intensifies our cravings, technical devices that scream for our attention, and the cacophony of audible sounds that keep us perpetually distracted. It is simply a time to be with God – no formal prayers or readings, no attachment to any thought, just a time to let go of everything and to be naked before God. God is often found in the nothingness when we cease to be busy looking for God.
The Psalmist was wise when he wrote, “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation. Truly, my hope is in him.” (Psalm 62: 1, 6)