The Practice of Silence

This weekend I am leading some brave souls in my church in a silent retreat. Here are some thoughts from Dallas Willard as we prepare for the weekend:

Silence is a crucial spiritual discipline for American Christians today. Contemporary life also makes it one of the most difficult to practice.

Silence is, in every time and place, an essential way of breaking free from the grip of a world turned away from God and his kingdom—a world that neglects the soul. In our time in particular, the ever-present noise of modern existence and the overwhelming barrage of relentless “communications” militate against living in divine presence.

Silence has two closely related dimensions. One involves evading noise or intrusive sounds. These reach deeply into our body and keep it (and us) at a constant low level of alarm. The other has to do with avoiding talk, which, without the spiritual depth of love, proves to be little more than another type of intrusive sound (1 Cor. 13:1)…

Silence well practiced opens a living space in which we can be effectively attentive to God, to our own souls, and to the genuine needs of those around us. The apostle Paul directs us, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29, NASB). James says, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man” (3:2). One cannot be like that by trying.

However, one can become the kind of person who is like that. A wise and seasoned practice of silence does much to bring it about.

It is up to us to choose silence and other practices of spiritual discipline that enable us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). The discipline of silence has substantially advanced multitudes in that “grace and knowledge.”

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