In our efforts to help people grow spiritually and mature in Christian faith, we ministers may do a pretty good job of continually urging them to practice the basic spiritual disciplines of regular purposeful worship, patient use of the Bible in study and devotional reading, prayer, good stewardship and service to Christ and neighbor.
All of these are, indeed, time-honored, time-proven aids to spiritual personal growth.
I’ve been thinking, however, that we ought also to emphasize more earnestly the values and benefits that may come through a wise use of silence and solitude for quietness of spirit, meditation and contemplation.
We Americans are not known for our appreciation of these values. It actually seems that silence makes us uncomfortable, so we often try to escape it with one or more of our electronic devices or in other busywork.
The wisdom of the Bible urges us, however, to “be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)
Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, “in quietness and trust shall be your strength!” (Isaiah 30:15)
Jesus himself demonstrated the importance of silence and solitude with his practice of retreating to pray in “a lonely place” (Mark 1:35), and of withdrawing from others to be alone in prayer (Luke 2:41).
Let me propose something that has been a blessing to me. If you do not already regularly avail yourself of the blessings of silence and solitude, try this:
Every day withdraw to the most private place you can find in your home or elsewhere. Eliminate all sounds and distractions as far as possible. Present yourself patiently before God. Do your best to put yourself at God’s disposal. Open yourself to whatever He might say to you through your thoughts and feelings.
When your thoughts drift away, gently refocus them on God.
At first, five minutes might seem a long time to do this. One day soon, however, you may glance at your watch and be surprised to realize that nine or 10 minutes have gone by. Then the next time extend your scheduled offering of yourself to God to 15 minutes, then 30.
Be still, and know that God is God. It is a wonderful experience to become so engrossed in making yourself available to God that you lose track of time. I pray such a blessing for you as for myself.
THE REV. G. DANIEL MCCALL IS THE MINISTER OF PASTORAL CARE AT FAIRVIEW PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN NORTH AUGUSTA.