Silencing the Noise
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. . . . For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him (Ps. 62:1–2, 5).
After spending an evening at a friend's home, you've lost your phone. You remember putting it on vibrate, so you borrow someone's phone to call it and yell at everyone in the room, "Quiet!" How else would you hear the low vibrating sound? Because our phones are important to us, we will do whatever it takes to "hear" them when lost.
Is God important enough to us that we'll do whatever it takes to hear Him? In 1 Kings 19, God revealed Himself to Elijah not in an earthquake or fire but in a "low whisper" (v. 12). How can we hear this gentle whisper of God unless we quiet the noise of our lives? To have a listening prayer life, we need to learn to wait in silence on God.
Recognizing the Noise
Anything that keeps the heart and mind in a state of going and doing (instead of waiting and being) is a form of noise. Our world highly values productivity and therefore pressures us to fill our days from top to bottom with the noise of tasks, people, information, and entertainment. Weeks and months can go by without one moment of silence in a day. How can we hear from God if we give Him no time to speak? When we demand that He fit into our schedule, allotting Him thirty minutes of time in the morning but nothing more?
Before we can silence the noise we must recognize it. We aren't talking about a literal sound that we can block out with ear plugs. This type of noise keeps our mind and emotions so occupied that there is no space for communion with God. Here are some examples:
Tasks: to-do lists, chores, bills, responsibilities at home or church, school. People: interactions with children, family, friends, meetings, phone calls, texts, email communication, social media communication. Information: Twitter feeds, Facebook, blogs and articles, books, documentaries, online research. Entertainment: movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, books, games online or on the phone.
Nothing listed above is necessarily bad. In fact, much of it is needed and honors God. The problem isn’t that these things are in our life but rather how much of them are in our life. It's the sheer number of things that can squeeze God out.
Silencing the Noise
In Psalm 62, David's hope in God presents itself in the form of silent and expectant waiting. Why is silence important in seeking God? Silence is a ceasing from speaking, a fasting from activity. And just like any other fast, the goal is more of God. Just like quieting a room to hear a vibrating phone, we periodically need to quiet our lives to hear from God through His Word.
Creating silence involves knowing what makes the most noise in your life. Your season of life, job, and family situation will greatly determine what crowds your mind the most. For some, periodically shutting off the phone is needed. For others it's not scheduling as many meetings. It isn't always possible to turn off the noises we'd like to, but there is usually something we can do to regularly create a quieter atmosphere for our souls to wait on the Lord.
The discipline of silent waiting on God can be practiced in daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms. Let me share a few ways I create silence in my life.
Daily. On particularly full days, I add "twenty minutes of silence" to my to-do list. I often go sit outside and set a timer for twenty minutes. My goal is not to empty my mind but rather to allow it to fill with thoughts of God. I study the trees, notice the types of birds around and how beautiful blades of grass look when held up to the sunlight. All this noticing draws my heart into worship. (Don't romanticize this too much. My kids are often running around in these moments as well.)
Weekly. If you don't already take a sabbath day, you should. A whole day of rest after six days of work is a pattern modeled by God Himself (Gen. 2:1–3). This is a day to silence noise (work, cell phone usage, entertainment, chores, etc.). It's difficult for the productivity-obsessed person (like me) to "waste" a whole day, but the quietness it fosters in my soul is invaluable.
Monthly. Having an extended "quiet time" is a great monthly exercise in silence. Daily meeting with God in the Word and prayer is great, but we usually don't have the opportunity to linger long because of other responsibilities. I try to find a way to get out of the house for four to five hours to dig into the Word, come to God with questions, process where I see Him at work through journaling, and sit quietly before Him.
Yearly. Each summer I plan a week of solitude to proactively seek God and hear from Him. I limit my interaction with other people outside our home as much as is possible. I don't do any meetings, coffee dates, play dates, or other social gatherings during that time. I purposely try to clear my schedule so I can spend two to three hours each day seeking God in the Word and prayer. I often come with a list of questions like: God, what am I doing that You'd like me to stop doing? What do You want me to know in this season? How can I love my husband and kids better? Is there any sin or wickedness in my heart I cannot see that needs to be exposed?
The goal is to seek the face of God like Psalm 27:8 describes: "You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, LORD, do I seek.'" Or like Psalm 105:4: "Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!"
Is your prayer life all talking and no listening? If so, it's worth asking if you really want to know Him. Yes, reading the Word is a form of listening, the primary way we know who God is and what He desires, but creating silence keeps our hearts alert and listening.
When was the last time you sat still for twenty minutes just to wait on God? Do you rush from your time in the Word to the tasks of the day without stopping to listen? Find ways to cultivate a quiet spirit that is sensitive to the leading of God. Let these ideas awaken your own creativity to find ways of silencing the noise in your own life. What could be more important today than seeking the face of God?
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him (Ps. 37:7).
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning (Ps. 130:6).