I teach a course on Christian disciplines for B. H. Carroll Theological Institute. I have taught the course for a number of years now. I had an interest in the disciplines prior to teaching this course but being responsible to teach the topic held me to a new level of accountability. I started studying the topic more. I have read Richard Foster, Don Whitney, Dallas Willard, Adele Calhoun, Ruth Haley Barton, David Mathis and others. Spiritual disciplines are habits that help us listen to God and be available to Him. We are all familiar with disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, Bible study, or worship. But what I discovered was that all these disciplines needed another discipline.
Have you ever had the problem of being interrupted as you tried to concentrate on reading the Bible? Have you ever had your praying interrupted by all the thoughts swirling in your mind? Does your smartphone, on you all the time, vibrate when you are in worship? Does it seem that you struggle to hear God because of all the noise in your life?
The discipline that supports all these disciplines and more is the spiritual discipline of silence. We practice silence as we move away, for a time, from the noise of the world. We shut off the electronics and turn off our phones. We even move away from people for short periods, so we can focus on God instead of the things that can distract us from listening to God. Susannah Wesley, even as a pastor’s wife and raising 19 people, would practice silence, if nothing more than sitting in her kitchen with her apron over her head. She trained her children to know that when they saw their mother under her apron, she was talking to God and did not want to be disturbed.Every hour, 913,242,000 texts are sent worldwide. Does it seem like most are coming to you? We need some silence in all this static so we can listen to God. Click To Tweet
We live in such a noisy world that we struggle to hear from God. We read our Bibles but with little reflection or meditation because the interrupting noise and voices drown out His still small voice. We need some silence our lives.
Silence is a challenging discipline because we do not like silence. Silence reminds us of our weaknesses. Silence points us to God, which truthfully, we are not usually eager to see. And, the noise of this world is a tool the evil one can use to keep us from listening to God and meditating on His Word. He is always present with us, but the noise blinds us to Him. The discipline of silence requires, . . . well, discipline.
Start the discipline of silence very slowly. I began with just a few minutes each day. As I got comfortable with it, I began stretching that a bit. Now, I enjoy about 45 minutes each morning. I pray and read my Bible as an act of listening. Then I sit still. I ask the Lord to help me be aware of His presence. I ponder Him. I clear my mind so the voice I hear is His.
I would encourage you to start the practice of silence slowly. I don’t get a booming voice ever. Neither will you. But I become increasing aware of God’s gently suggestions and nudging. I grow aware of His presence.
Then I also try to observe some longer periods of time in silence. Like a couple of years ago, I spent a day on a personal retreat. I went alone. I turned off my phone. I did not play music. I just took my Bible and some writing supplies to record what God was saying. I left that day with a life plan, looking toward the future life that I think God let me glimpse and a life God wants me to live. Last fall, on a trip to speak in a conference, I spent six hours on Petit Jean Mountain, sitting a picnic table, life plan spread before me and God. I asked for new direction. With my Bible, I put together what I sensed through the weeks prior was God’s promptings to adjust that plan and move in some new directions. On a weekly basis I try to observe a brief time with that life plan, asking God, “Lord, what is next?”
That’s how Deepen Retreats was born a couple of years ago. I think God prompted me to create a series of retreats where a small group of people can spend time in silence and then discuss in groups what God is doing in their lives. The first Deepen Retreat confirmed for us that people not only needed this silence and group time, but they wanted it. Every person left that retreat with a plan they felt God had given them that would lead them into a deeper relationship with Him. These lives we lead now can be deep beyond measure.
Now two more Deepen Retreats are planned. Both will be hosted at beautiful Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs, AR. The men’s retreat will be March 16-18. The women’s retreat will be March 23-26. I am leading the men’s retreat. A great leadership team has been assembled to lead the women’s retreat. Tonya Bolton, registrar at Williams Baptist University and the founder/leader of the Moms & More ministry to women, will be the teacher for the retreat. Lea Andra Foster, a pastor’s wife and math instructor for high school and college will guide the worship. Mary Norvell will be there to host and facilitate. I am really thankful for these ladies joining in the vision of Deepen Retreats. What a great team!
You can learn more about these Deepen Retreats online. You can take this link to Camp Siloam’s web page. Click on “Retreats” at the top and then select the men’s or women’s retreat from the drop-down menu. There you will find information about the retreats and a link to register. Right now, we have an early bird rate to help you save a few dollars. But, register soon; each retreat is limited to only 50 participants. Camp Siloam has been known for outstanding youth and children’s camps during the summer and now we are partnering together to offer these retreats.
Build some silence into your life so you can discern God’s voice amid all the noise around us. Consider joining us and experience more about silence at an upcoming Deepen Retreat.
Scripture: Read Psalm 62:1. What is the role of silence when we wait to hear from God?
Dig Deeper: Read Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun.
Now It’s Your Turn: How do you find the time and silence in your life to listen to God? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.