“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Henri Nouwen states that “silence is the way to make solitude a reality.” Dallas Willard says “silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the start realities of our life.” With our mouth we lie, we rationalize, we make excuses, we exaggerate, we insult, we hurt, James was right “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:7-8). Silence is important when we approach God in solitude. When we pray we speak much, silence is about allowing the voice of God to speak, and this is a true discipline. To be quiet long enough in the presence of God is a difficult and terrifying thing. It is difficult because our mind, our interior tongue speaks when our outward one is still, and terrifying because when we truly enter into God’s presence there is nothing we can say. We can imagine that Jesus was silent much of the time during his 40 days of fasting and solitude, listening for the voice of his Father. Going back to Matthew 6:7, Jesus basically commands his disciple not to talk too much in prayer because your Father already knows what you need. Therefore, the rest of praying is dedicated to silent listening.
The spiritual discipline of silence however, is not just used between us and God. Silence is a disciplined we need to use with others. Again Dallas Willard says “Silence and especially true listening are often the strongest testimony of our faith.” Jesus knew the power of silence when he was brought before Pilate accused of many things in Matthew 27 he remained quiet. Our silence with others speaks volumes about who we are. Too often we are so busy speaking, or so busy getting ready to say something that we never hear what someone is saying. We never see what their body language, the tone of their voice, their eyes, or what the subtlety of their words are saying because we are so busy speaking, or getting ready to. Silence draws us closer to God because we must rely on his voice to participate in our prayer time. Silence also draws us closer to each other because to allows others to speak uninhibited. Use your prayer time to practice silence. As much as possible be silent at work or school. Be careful when you open your mouth that you do so not to complain or hurt. Speak only when absolutely necessary or spoken too (do not be a jerk about it). Imagine you have only so many words you are allowed to speak this day, use them wisely. In the silence, throughout the day, listen to the voice of God.