I like to take a break from my activities mid-week and seek God's face. This past week was no different. However, I decided to include an element which had not been present before. I decided to listen to God. No bible, no writing, just me and my eyes shut waiting for Him to speak into my heart.
It's actually not a very foreign concept; it is one of the Spiritual Disciplines I read about in Richard J. Foster's great Christian classic, Celebration of Discipline. Yet I dare say that this is one of the most misunderstood and neglected spiritual disciplines. We are so accustomed to living in a world with noise around us. When we wake up in the morning, we are awoken by the sound of the alarm, the water running as we brush our teeth, the coffee machine screeching as it begins to brews. What I've described are probably only the first five ten minutes of the average person's day. The truth is that noise is all around us and it is almost impossible to shut it out. Unless of course, you are intentional about it. Yet even once the noise on the outside is shut out, the one on the inside remains. It is the busyness in our heads that reminds us, "Did you reply to that email?," "Have you made that follow-up appointment to go over the results of the lab work with your doctor?," and so forth. On and on our list of seemingly endless "Things to Do" goes on and along with it goes our sense of inner tranquility as it is dragged into a world of chaos and turmoil. Yet we've become so accustomed to it that we are no longer aware of it.
Yesterday as I sat in my classroom during my break, I set a timer for five minutes, tucked my head into my arms, closed my eyes and attempted to sit in silence. My goal was to clear my thoughts completely and allow the Lord to speak to me. Needless to say, I failed miserably. There was no way I could successfully shut out the world's demands to tune into God.
When my five minutes were up, I realized just how much I needed to continue pursuing this spiritual discipline. God didn't answer my prayers but he did reveal to me how much I have overlooked the spiritual discipline of silence.
There may be not much said about it today. However, if we are study Jesus' life we find that the art of listening was one he not only practiced but mastered. In Matthew 14:23 we read, "After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone." Again in Mark 1:35, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." In Luke 5:16 we read, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." There are no shortage of examples on how Jesus sought the Father through prayer and intentionally practiced silence and solitude. He valued his time alone with the Father and knew it was the source of his strength. He knew that without it he would not be as effective in ministering to others and he certainly made it a point to nurture this discipline.
I, too, will press on. I will continue to seek His face. I will allow Him to refresh my soul through the silence. The words spoken by Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:10b have become my own, "Speak, for your servant is listening."