One of the biggest mysteries of the Christian life is hearing God’s voice and knowing His will. When I want to know what someone thinks about something, I ask them and generally get a response. Many people pray and ask God for His will, opinions, and directions for their lives but hear nothing.
In my own experience, it is due to my one-sided and limited understanding of prayer. Many of us have a narrow view of prayer that consists only of talking to God. Yes it is true that prayer is communication with God. But communication does not only involve talking, it also involves listening! How difficult it is to truly listen to God and hear Him in such a chaotic world.
“I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds. If he can keep us hearing radios, gossip, conversation, or even sermons, he is happy. But he will to allow quietness. For he believes Isaiah where we do not. Satan is quite aware of the power of silence. The voice of God, though persistent, is soft.” Jim Elliot in Shadow of the Almighty
In 1 Kings 19:11-13, the prophet Elijah climbs is told to climb a mountain and stand in the presence of God because the Lord would pass by him. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'”
We cannot hear God’s voice if we are always talking, always busy, always surrounded by noise and people. I am definitely not advocating we all move to caves or into the desert. I am advocating a daily time of silence whereby we can practice listening to God’s voice.
There are different methods of practicing silence, ironically, here are two:
1) Start with a quick prayer and ask God to bring you into His presence. You can look at a picture of Jesus, if this will help your concentration. Silence your thoughts and concentrate on being in His presence. Note: you will get distracted!! That’s absolutely okay just refocus as soon as you realize your mind wandered.
2) Popular in Eastern Christianity is the use of the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer is the following: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Close your eyes and repeat this prayer out loud. You can get a prayer rope to help you count. Try to start with ten-fifteen minutes a day (that should be about 100 times – it seems like a lot but its not!!). This is an extremely powerful and old prayer. For more information on it, check out: The Power of the Name.
Another tip is to stand or kneel, sometimes if we are relaxing comfortably it is hard to make ourselves feel the presence of our Almighty Creator. It is also a sign of respect.
Of course God made every person unique and I am positive there are different methods of practicing silence and prayer, which I do not know about. No matter how you do it, I still encourage you to try to be silent for at least ten minutes a day. Do not give up easily, it may take weeks or months to feel the impact.
“Praying is no longer merely to ask for things and can indeed exist without the employment of words at all. It is not so much momentary activity as a continuous state. To pray is to stand before God, to enter into an immediate and personal relationship with him; it is to know at every level of our being, from the instinctive to the intellectual, from the sub-to the supra-conscious, that we are in God and he is in us.” The Power of His Name
“True inner prayer is to stop talking and to listen to the wordless voice of God within our heart; it is to cease doing things on our own, and to enter into the action of God. The Power of His Name
This is a huge subject and I just wanted to give you a small taste of the possibility of hearing God’s voice in your life. If you are struggling with this area or discerning His will, I encourage you to try this practice of silence.
Here are some good resources:
1) The power of the name by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
2) The Jesus Prayer by Lev Gillet
3) Exploring Silence by Wendy Robinson
4) The Way of the Pilgrim
5) The Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander
…and I’m sure if you google “church fathers on silence” many other resources will come up!
I hope this encourages you and motivates you to try a form of worship you may not have before! We are all in this together and I pray that we can all be firmly rooted and grounded in the faith. God bless each and every one of you with His amazing and loving presence.