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Silence

If you were in worship on Sunday, then you heard the story from Mark’s gospel about Jesus going away to a deserted place to pray. We explored how this story invites us to find ways in our daily lives to pray, to make ourselves unavailable to the world around us in order to make ourselves fully available to God. (We even dared to consider turning off our cell phones and email. Gasp!) We were all challenged by this story. Several of you leaving the sanctuary after worship told me that I had made you feel guilty. Well, believe me, the story hit me just as hard. I preached what I needed to hear!

After the sermon, John Hill led us in a time of prayer. But instead of speaking the Prayers of the People, he ushered us into three minutes of silence. Three minutes doesn’t sound like a long time. It’s hardly enough time to walk down to the mailbox and back. But three minutes of sitting and doing nothing? That’s challenging.

In fact, those three minutes were more challenging than I thought they would be. In my prayer time at home, I often spend time in silence. I try to practice clearing my mind and my heart in order to listen more attentively for God, and I’m getting more used to it, more comfortable with it. So, sitting in silence for three minutes in worship seemed like a no-brainer. (Pardon the pun. Get it? Clearing your mind? No-brainer?) Anyway, I thought the silence in worship would be comfortable and easy and refreshing.

But as soon as everything got quiet, I felt anxious. I was overcome with a feeling of uneasiness. I wanted it to be over. Then I started to worry, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I feeling this way?” Over the course of the three minutes, I began to realize the source of my anxiety: time. I was worried about the service going long. It was communion Sunday, after all. And I was worried that people were getting restless. I was anxious that people would think we were wasting time by doing this, by “doing nothing.”

Eventually—and thank goodness we were given so much time to be silent—I offered all of that anxiety up to God. I realized that God was showing me some things about myself, far too many things to fit into one newsletter article. But I began to see that I carry these worries into worship with me, and they can get in the way of truly communing with God and with you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. All my thoughts and scattered feelings didn’t get resolved or figured out in three minutes. I got a glimpse, a brief revelation. But it was a gift, and it made me want to return again and again to the silence to see what else God might reveal.

The whole experience reminded me of a quote from Romano Guardini about contemplative prayer: “If at first we achieve no more than the understanding of how much we lack in inner unity, something will have been gained.”

I’m curious. If you were in worship on Sunday, what did you experience in those three minutes of silence? I would love to hear from you—in person, by email, by phone. Or, since you are here at our new website, you can comment below! If you feel led, share with me and with one another what this little taste of contemplative prayer was like for you. Maybe we can help each other move more deeply into the silence of our loving God.