For thousands of years, spiritual people have known the value of communing with God in the Silence. In this piece, I would like to give you some ideas about how to do this; how to commune with God in the ‘deep silence’.
Jesus said this in Matthew 6:6 (NASB):
Now, I fully realise that this was said in the context of not being all ‘showing-off’ in our faith, as if for the approval of others, but instead to keep our prayer and communion with God between Him and ourselves. But I believe there are also a couple of deeper truths in this passage that are useful in our present context. You see, I believe that, while on the surface, Jesus talks about your ‘inner room’ as if it’s a room in your house where you won’t be disturbed, He also talks about praying to your Father ‘…who is in secret’. I think that that right there is the key – it’s a private place, a Secret Place if you will. A Secret Place within your spirit (your ‘inner room’ being just that: a room ‘inside you’), that only you and God know. In the King James Version, the words the translators use are ‘…enter into thy closet’ (Mt 6:6 (KJV)). I like that. It’s as if it’s a tiny room where there is space only for two – you and God – and no-one else. It’s a place where only you and God are; where indeed no-one else will even fit in (in both senses of the term); where nobody else can get to but you and Him, no matter what is going on around you. This is the deepest place of communion with God; the place where it’s just you and Him*. Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus says that your Father ‘…will reward you’; what greater reward can there be but the Presence of God Himself?
Some people have written on the subjects of the ‘Discipline of Silence’ and the ‘Discipline of Solitude’. I won’t go into detail on these; you can easily Google the terms yourself and get a wide range of differing ideas and viewpoints on them. My post is kind-of related to those Disciplines, in that (that is, if you are into Spiritual Disciplines; I personally am not) these Disciplines may be able to help you on the road to practising accessing your ‘Secret Place’. Different paths for different people; it will work for some, not for others. Only you will know which way is best for you. But it is not the same thing as either the Discipline of Silence or that of Solitude. It’s not just being quiet before God, nor about silencing our thoughts, nor is it about being away from others, although as I said these disciplines all have their own value and can help you to access your Secret Place.
I will let you know how I personally do it. I find that I can easily find the inner Silence when there is literal silence – the absence of sound or noise – around me. If you like, the silence around me is a ‘picture’ of, or a ‘parable’ about, the Silence within. And once I am in the habit of finding that Silence in those circumstances, I find I can ‘touch base’ with the Silence in even the shortest silences. Moving on from this, I find I can also discover what I call the ‘underlying silence’ under all the noise of the day and/or the circumstances. I realise that this may be because of me having Asperger’s Syndrome, in which I find that my senses are constantly overloaded by visual, auditory and other sensory stimuli, and because of this I have had to learn to ‘tune’ out’, to some extent, as much extraneous ‘noise’ as possible in order to even be able to think straight. Even as I am writing this, someone has the television on in the background and I am having to tune that out too, because one of my Aspergic ‘gifts’ is the ability to concentrate on, or listen to, something in the background, at the same time as concentrating on my main task. It can become quite distracting, to be honest.
But anyway, let me try to explain it by describing the background levels that I perceive, in order to help you try to get a handle on the idea of the ‘underlying silence’; the ‘Deep Silence’, using an everyday example.
When I arrive home from work, and switch off the car engine, I open the door and just listen to the silence. I am most fortunate in living on a quiet road in a quiet part of town, and when I open my car door after switching off, the silence is quite profound. That’s easy; but even then, I am in the habit of ‘listening’ to the silence, and consciously having the feeling of ‘touching my feet down’ on it.
Then I unlock my front door, go in, and close the door behind me. There will be sounds, maybe the TV will be on, maybe someone might be listening to music or my daughter playing the piano. Or maybe, if my son is up to stay for a couple of days, he might be cooking or talking. But because I have already ‘heard’ the silence, I know that, beneath the noises, quiet or loud though they may be, the silence is still there and my feet are still planted on it – because I have made myself aware of it.
Or if I am at an airshow or even out flying myself. Sure, there is activity, noise, concentration and there are things to be done. But I am aware that underneath everything is the silence. Even if the noise has not been taken away, filtered out, or whatever, still I am aware that it is there – the underlying silence that is the background for all the layers of sound and distraction that we or our surroundings cover it with.
Or if I am at work and everyone wants everything done more urgently than everything else, again, I am aware of the deep underlying silence that lies behind everything, after everything else has been filtered out. It’s still there, even if I can’t actually hear it. And I therefore find that I can touch or access that silence even if everything around is havoc, as it so often is.
Do you see the progression here? I start by listening to ‘actual’, real silence: the absence of sounds. While doing that, I become more aware of the deep, inner Silence where God dwells. Then, as things become more distracting, I maintain an awareness of that underlying silence, that makes me aware of the inner Silence. It is still there, even despite the noise. Because I have experienced it when it’s ‘easier’, I can then also learn how to do this in other circumstances because I already know it’s there. And, with practice, I can be aware of the inner Silence in this manner irrespective of what goes on around me. I don’t mean I am constantly thinking about God, silence or things like that. What I mean is that, having experienced the Silence, I am aware that it is there, ‘on tap’, whenever I want to access it because it really is. It would have been there even had I not known how to access it, although it wouldn’t have been of much use to me. But because I am aware of it, I can tap into it any time I like.
This is the place where we can touch right down onto the bedrock of our faith; to plant our feet firmly on the solidity that is God, and from there all else just falls into place. Once our feet are placed on Him, the shocks and strains of life don’t have anywhere near the devastating effects that they would normally have, because we are grounded in Him.
Silence, Peace and Rest
In some ways, this inner Silence is also linked to the ‘peace that transcends understanding’ (Phil 4:7) and the ‘Sabbath rest of God’ (Heb 4:9-10) because it forms one of three spiritual ‘legs’, as it were, of Silence, Peace and Rest.
Silence, in that in the silence sits the waiting, welcoming Presence of God.
Peace, in that the supernatural Peace that transcends not only our understanding but also our circumstances gives us a real confidence that God has everything in hand, no matter how bad it might seem – and that death is no longer the end.
Rest, in that we have a Sabbath rest from our works in the same way that God rested from His labours – in that He simply let things be as they are, and we too also no longer need to work to ‘obtain’ or ‘earn’ our favour in God’s eyes, but that He accepts us, likes us and loves us just as we are.
Because of these three factors, we are welcome in that Secret Place. We can come directly into the Presence of God with neither hindrance nor fear (1Jn 4:18). Silence is just the way in which I have become aware of it; for you, it may be different – or it may not. That’s up to you to find out. But be assured, that inner, underlying Silence is indeed present; you do have a ‘Secret Place’ which you can access by climbing your secret staircase into that place where God waits for you, and is in fact there all the time.
I’m not saying you have to have a ‘Quiet Time’. Indeed, the Secret Place is not the same thing as the Quiet Time, although you can of course access the Secret Place during your Quiet Time, if you happen to practise that Spiritual Discipline (and I talk more about this in this article). But you can just as easily access the Secret Place in the hectic hassle of everyday life. In fact, it’s deeper than the ‘Quiet Time’ because, although in the Quiet Time you do indeed ‘charge your spiritual batteries’ and commune with God, there is a definite demarcation between the Quiet Time and the outside world. You step out of your Quiet Time and go into the world. With the inner Silence, however, you essentially carry your Quiet Time, if you like, around with you wherever you are and whenever it is. Your communing with God depends not on a set time and place, but more on an ongoing habit or mindset. Some have called it ‘Practising the Presence of God’, and this does sound like another way of looking at it, although I have not studied the idea in any great depth because so much of it appears to involve formulas and stuff like that. For me, the practice of the Inner Silence is far more personal, far more intimate than anything reached by a set of formulas or rituals. But it might work for you, of course; just because things like that don’t work for me doesn’t by any means infer that it won’t work for anyone.
If you live somewhere where it’s never quiet, can I recommend maybe finding the silence when you wake up at 3am in order to go to the toilet. Savour the silence when you get back into bed. Be conscious of it – the silence that lies underneath everything else. If you can’t do that at that time in the morning, maybe try out in the mountains or the moors, or on a secluded beach at dusk – or preferably at dawn; most people still seem to think it’s clever to stay up late, so the morning is usually quieter. Some of the most silent places are places like up in the Yorkshire Dales, or I can also specifically recommend Wasdale Head in the Lake District. In practice, though, you will find that you don’t usually need to go too far from civilisation to find somewhere silent.
Or maybe you might prefer the silence of the forest. Granted, in a forest, the wind in the trees virtually never stops making a sound of some sort, but it can still be good because the sounds of nature are easier to filter out as they make less demands on you, and can even in some cases be part of the silence. The silence itself is buried far less by the sounds of nature than it is by the sounds of civilisation.
However you find your inner Silence, the next step is to generate the habit of consciously resting on the Silence whenever you can. Pause and wait before you open your car door after switching off the engine. As you lay your head on your pillow last thing at night, be conscious of the inner silence just before you wander off into your dreamland. When you wake in the morning, before your ‘To Do’ list comes crowding in, savour that deep inner silence. Look for times during the day when there is a pause in your routine. Maybe you’re waiting at traffic lights in your car. Maybe you’re in the lunch queue at school. Any time when your mind can be diverted from what you’re doing is a good time. An example of what would not be a good time to be diverted is maybe when you are landing an aeroplane or negotiating a complex series of lane changes on a busy motorway junction. God doesn’t mind that you’re concentrating on what you’re doing! But in the same way as you might, sometimes even subconsciously, reach across the car and touch the hand of a loved one, or catch their eye across a crowded room and give them a wink, or a meaningful look of support or something; that’s what the Secret Place sometimes looks like. You find that almost unconsciously – because it is habitual and comes naturally – you find yourself reaching in to the Inner Silence and communing there with your Heavenly Father – Who, as Jesus said, ‘rewards’ you – with His Presence.
In fact, this can also be seen as a definite form of prayer, because you are communing with God; being intimate with Him. Even if only for a couple of seconds, you are acknowledging His presence and going into that place where it’s just you and Him. And, to me, that few seconds is far more precious than many hours of just talking out loud to a God Whom you are not sure is listening…
So, although that might all sound a bit mystical and strange, please let me encourage you to find, in your own way, your own Inner Silence – or whatever it looks like to you. It’s well worth the effort. I’d also be interested in any comments that my readers make about their own experiences in this field.
May God bless you as you seek Him in this way.
I have written a piece touching on this subject before; you might want to read this previous article in order to ‘flesh out’ these ideas presented here with some more examples and thoughts, along with a couple of songs you might find helpful.
*I also believe that this is what Don Francisco means in his song, ‘Come Away‘, where he sings of the ‘…place where the thief has no key’.