Even Silence Is Praise
DAY 1 OF 5
Meditation in Church?
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1 ESV)
There is a rich Christian tradition of meditation. Praying in silence, closing out the material world to look to the world beyond, emptying the mind, seeking God in “the cloud of unknowing,” as an anonymous English author put it in a fourteenth-century book of that title. Listening for the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 NKJV), listening for God in silence because, as the psalmist wrote millennia ago, “to you even silence is praise” (Psalm 65:1 CEB).
Call it meditation, call it contemplative prayer, call it centering prayer, call it silent prayer—call it what you will, but it’s addressing the same basic human needs: to find peace beyond all the chatter. To know who you are in the midst of endless demands on your time and the fatal allure of busyness. To observe the mind so you can give up the mind. To do more by doing less.
I love church. I’ve worshipped in the same place for over thirty years, singing in the choir, volunteering at the soup kitchen, teaching a class on Sunday mornings, serving on committees, sitting on boards. I don’t believe my marriage would have survived and thrived without the sustenance of my faith community. I wouldn’t have wanted to raise our kids without the experience of listening to Scripture, praying together, doing the annual Christmas pageant, savoring communion, singing sacred music, going on retreats, and knowing the intimacy that comes from hearing a well-crafted, well-delivered sermon to shake you out of your complacency.
But I wonder, How often do we do serious silence in church? Hour by hour, minute by minute, we’re more likely to do just the opposite. Talk. Gab at coffee hour. Pick apart a biblical text. Pray out loud (with a few pregnant pauses). Analyze the sermon. Meet in groups to discuss an inspired text. Semiannual quiet days or prayer services attract modest crowds; they’re not much competition for the daily yoga classes in our communities. We might manage to be quiet together for a little while, but then we talk about what the silence delivered. What if we just stayed with the emptiness and cultivated it? How would it speak to us then?
We talk a lot about prayer at church. We’re obviously supposed to do it in our spare time (spare time—doesn’t that say a lot?) Our pastor in a recent sermon quoted a line often attributed to Martin Luther: “I have so much to do that I shall spen the first three hours in prayer.” Well, what actually did Martin Luther do for those three hours? Was he on his knees the whole time? Was he reading Scripture? Was he meditating on the Lord’s Prayer? Did he have his eyes open or closed? Was this his usual time of contemplative prayer? Was it like what Jesus did up on the mountain when he needed to get away from the crowd? Nobody’s ever told me.
I come to meditation from a Christian background. The key difference is the involvement of a higher power. I have often turned to contemporary writers who understand its Christian roots and practice—Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and Martin Laird, to name a few. I am a real beginner compared to them. But then again, meditation is a welcome spot for amateurs. The greatest teachers of it seem to have a humility of both sharing and not pontificating. You want to join their number.
What I wish for is that the church (my church, your church, the church around the corner) offers up something that will add to what those folk are getting in the meditation room at the office or during their afternoon yoga class. Surely that’s something that can happen. It might even be happening already.
Do you regularly pray or meditate?
When, where, and how do you pray or meditate?
Father God, may my thoughts be focused on you. May I take all my praises and concerns straight to you.
About this Plan
These five daily devotions are based on Rick Hamlin’s book, Silence Is Praise: Quiet Your Mind and Awaken Your Soul with Christian Meditation. Silence speaks volumes and becomes a tool for all Jesus followers.
We would like to thank HarperCollins/Zondervan/Thomas Nelson for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: https://www.thomasnelson.com/p/even-silence-is-praise/
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