Remember when God spoke to Elijah on Mt. Horeb? There was a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but it was not until Elijah heard a gentle whisper or “a still, small voice” that he knew God was present (see 1 Kings 19:11-13). God wants to be present to you and me too. He desires to commune with us in a gentle whisper. In order to “hear” Him—to be open to receive Him—we must be silent.
Blessed Mother Teresa said, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature —trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Our modern world is full of noise and activity. With four young boys at home, silence is a rare blessing for me. Still, there are many ways I can cultivate silence both during and away from my prayer time. Except for on long trips, I do not turn on the radio or CDs in the car. At home we never use music or TV for background noise.
We also have to be careful of constant chattering. Some people are naturally gregarious. If you are such a person, you might have to restrain yourself from saying everything you would like to say. You can practice listening intently to other people to train your soul to listen to God. You might ask yourself before you speak if your words are necessary and edifying. Even those of us who are naturally quiet can sometimes speak too much. I often find myself hammering a point. My kids—let alone other adults—don’t benefit much from lectures.
Quieting your senses
But silence in the spiritual sense goes beyond lack of external noise. We must learn to quiet all our senses. We need to be able to rest in God, rather than being restless. We should not be spiritual Marthas, worried about many things. The more cares and possessions we have, the more likely it is we will be distracted during prayer. Simplifying our lives can help.
At prayer time, make a conscious decision to put aside distractions. I sometimes begin by meditating on the verse, “I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child in its mother’s arms” (Psalm 131:2). Another idea is to picture Jesus on the cross or in the manger. One by one, lay all your cares at His feet. Leave them there for the duration of your prayer.
Silence might feel uncomfortable at first. That is actually a good sign. We aren’t meant to be empty. But we are meant to be filled with God, not temporal things. Empty your heart of noise and God will soon come to fill the silence.