This evening I’ve been asked to speak to a small house church in my neighborhood on the spirituality of silence.
This particular community is evangelical, and silence is not something that they have traditionally placed a lot of emphasis on. But their pastor (who lives across the street from me) is discerning in his heart a call to greater silence in his prayer, and knowing that silence is “my thing” he invited me to come share with the community.
It seems to me that for a community like that, the best way to introduce them to the spirituality of silence is to share with them a variety of Biblical verses that affirm the beauty and importance of silence, as well as stillness and solitude.
So I drew up the list of the following verses, and figured it was worth sharing here. These versions (with the exception of Psalm 65) come from the New Revised Standard Version, but almost any scholarly Bible translation will reveal how important silence is in these passages. What I love about each of these passages is that they look at silence not in human terms (i.e., keeping silent — or speaking out — when relating to others), but rather they all point us to the beauty and meaning of silence in how we relate to God. I know that it’s dangerous to use proof-texts, but still, I can’t help but believe that these verses taken together make a powerful witness to how silence is an essential nutrient for the spiritual life.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
“For God alone my soul in silence waits.” Psalm 62:1
“To you, O God, silence is praise.” Psalm 65:1 (this verse is often mistranslated)
“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!” Habakkuk 2:20“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
“Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.” Zephaniah 1:7
“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26
“In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35
“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Revelation 8:1
“He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” I Kings 19:11-12 (other versions render this as “a still small voice” or “a light silent sound”)
Are there other Biblical passages about silence, stillness and solitude that you love? Please let me know!