Updated: Aug 10, 2019
The Scripture says, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). What happens when I pause to attend to God, to listen, to simply be still before God? What would take place if I did not control my conversation with God with a multitude of words (however meaningful and important)? When the inevitable onslaught of distractions comes what would emerge if I relinquished each one, turning my attention back to God, again and again? If God is inviting me into silence how do I even begin... even if it is only two minutes at a time?
There is a 40 day devotional by Peter Scazzero titled Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day. Our church recently journeyed through the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality course designed by Peter and Geri Scazzero. Engaging this 40 day devotional is part of the course. Each day has two devotions that include a short Scripture and reading, a reflective question, and a prayer, but perhaps the most significant element of the devotional practice is the beginning two minutes of silence and the closing two minutes of silence. Silence to attend to God.
I am not an expert on being still, but here are some guidelines that have been helpful to me.
1 - Prayer Word - Choosing, or asking God, for a prayer word(or phrase) historically provides an anchor for stillness. There are many favorites - the name of Jesus, Abba, come Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus have mercy on me, etc. A few years ago I settled on "Just You." For me, that phrase represented the invitation to anchor in God above all else. As I enter the stillness and distraction comes (i.e. I need to stop at the grocery store on the way home. Did I take the laundry out of the dryer? I am really worried about my friend, etc) I repeat the prayer word, and I bring my attention back to God.
2 - A Thousand Surrenders - A story was told in spiritual direction training for which I no longer remember the details. This is what I remember: a woman, perhaps a nun, was at a retreat and was seeking to practice stillness and silence. The distractions in her head were relentless, and she was growing discouraged. The leader invited her to see each "letting go" of a distraction as a surrender. Each surrender mattered.
3 - Non-judgment and release - What is important in the practice of silence is to continue to bring my attention back to God. If I fixate on the distraction or judge my distraction as failure I tend to give energy to the distraction. In contrast it is more beneficial to notice the interfering distraction, release it, and then bring my attention back to God and to a place of stillness.
4 - Practice - We will increase our capacity and our attention as we practice and train our minds to slow down. We have become undisciplined in our minds. A busy, driven culture, multiple technological devices, and immediate access to worldwide information brings chaos close to our minds and hearts. We will need to set our intention and make a choice to value silence and stillness.
5 - Let the Spirit be your teacher - We are not alone. If you have sensed God inviting you to greater stillness and silence trust that the Spirit of God will teach, empower, and equip you. Ask God for help.