We have just wrapped up a six-week sermon series at my church on spiritual disciplines. I really enjoyed the task of studying various forms of spiritual exercises over the centuries, and looking closely at how Christ’s own spirituality played out for him in his day-to-day life. While one sermon looked specifically at silence as a spiritual exercise, I found the practice applicable through a number of areas; especially in prayer.
Often, if we are a good friend, when we take time to talk with friends, we also take the time to be quiet and listen to what they have to say. If prayer is a conversation with God then we would be wise to practice silence a little more often in our prayer life. So often we do all the talking, and never stop mid-prayer to just simply be still and listen. Silence is hard for a lot of us in the year 2016 – rarely do we find ourselves in true silence. If we do we quickly become uncomfortable. But silence in prayer is an important practice, I believe. I encouraged my congregants the other week to take time in their prayers to sit in quiet and simply listen.
Preach the Kingdom – an answer to prayer
The week following that sermon I sat at my desk at 6:30 a.m., praying. Ministry can be difficult at times. Questions of ability, uncertainty, confusion, etc. all come to mind quickly. I sat at my desk conversing with God. “What am I supposed to do, Lord?! Nobody wants to do this anymore. Nobody wants to follow you. This is old and unbelieved. How do I reach people that don’t want to be reached. Am I even supposed to be doing this? How do I do this?!” Those were the notes jotted in my prayer journal; and then an ellipsis (…) <— a signifier to myself when I look back through my journals years from now that I have taken at least five minutes to sit in silence and listen for God’s voice.
“WHAT DO I DO, LORD?!” …
There in the silence I sat and quickly I couldn’t help but feel a response prompting me to simply “Go to My Word.” Over and over again there it was; “Go to My Word.” Finally I opened my eyes, and as soon as my eyes opened I saw the open Bible on my desk. It was as though a sentence was floating off the pages – maybe I was crosseyed, but there they were, the red letters of Jesus floating in front of my eyes: “Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60b).
I sat in silence, and there through quiet prayer and His Word, God clearly spoke to me. I don’t have to worry about running the perfect programs at my church, getting the best light & sound systems and worship bands to attract people; I don’t have to wear the right clothes – whether it’s skinny jeans or liturgical garb; I don’t have to subscribe to the latest church-growth sure thing. I am simply called to preach about the Kingdom of God. That’s it. That, I can do.
Just like you
Maybe that’s just like you. Whatever your calling in life, you are filled with doubt and uncertainty. We tend to make things more difficult than they need to be; especially when we compare ourselves to others. But when is the last time, in the midst of all that uncertainty and prayer lists a mile-long telling God what He should do, that you simply just sat in silence and waited on Him for His answer? Again, silence is difficult, and it can be uncomfortable. Especially if we’re waiting for God to answer; then the silence can become unbearable. Every second we go without hearing anything can leave us feeling more hopeless than before.
Coming to God earnestly in prayer and not receiving an answer is difficult. As a pastor I see people struggle with this all the time. God isn’t always going to tell you to open your eyes and have a Bible verse just floating in the air for you to see and push you forward. And then what do we do? Often we feel as though God has given up on us, or that He simply doesn’t exist.
I know, because I’ve been there. In fact, I was there yet again just last week. But this time, in the silence, an answer didn’t come. I went for days without any clarity. I was dejected and filled with uncertainty. I was ready to give up and pack it in. Then, in the most peculiar way, God spoke to me. Not only did He speak to me, He spoke through others around me, and to others as well. It was easily one of the top 5 most awe-filled moments of my life …
And I’ll tell you about it in Part II (which is now posted – click and check it out). Stay tuned.