I've been exploring the discipline of silence lately, and its importance in our spiritual formation. Silence is important because, though God is continuously longing to speak to us, we do not always hear him. Often we are unable to hear God because we are busy speaking, devising, and doing. The discipline of silence enables us to hear what God has to say.
In leadership, however, silence can prove difficult to practice. One author rightly observes that leaders exercise "word gifts". A "word gift" is a gift that God imparts to a person whereby he/she speaks truth and grace into another person's life. All leaders exercise word gifts in one form or another. Think of the list of leaders in Ephesians 4, as an example:
There are many similarities in these five "offices", but one of the common elements is that they all exercise "word gifts". It is impossible to be a prophet and refuse to "speak God's messages of truth and grace" to others. Being a prophet involves speaking words. The same is true with the apostolic call, or the evangelistic call. Likewise, you cannot be a pastor or a teacher without skillfully wrapping the gift of grace in words.
So, what to do with this tension...
On the one hand, I have been called by God to be a leader. Because of that, God wants me to exercise a "word gift" that he has given to me. This requires speaking.
But, on the other hand, I must learn to practice daily the discipline of silence to hear God's word. And all the great spiritual giants of the past remind me: speaking often gets in the way of listening. To listen to God, one needs to (very often) stop speaking so much.
The discipline of silence has raised my awareness of how many unfocused words I speak in a day. And, to the descriptor "unfocused" I could add these words:
So, I'm on a quest to speak words that will glorify God and encourage others. Of course, very often, I don't get it right. But, I have noticed that (now that I've been trying to practice silence more intentionally) I say less. This does not mean that I have stopped ministering and leading, however. It simply means that I minister and lead with greater intentionality. I do speak fewer words, but I find that, when I practice the important discipline of silence, my words are focused and more completely devoted to Christ and his Church.
Some days ago I ran across a prayer that I've found to be quite helpful in cultivating silence. It reminds me that silence concerns not only my mouth; silence also needs to penetrate my mind, heart and soul. Silence is an inner condition that can be realized within the hustle and bustle of a ride on the Metro or while waiting in line at a busy post office, or even while talking with a friend. The discipline of silence is aimed at transforming who we are on the inside, not just what we do on the outside. Silence connects us with God and enables us to hear his words of grace and truth for ourselves and his words for the noisy world in which we live.
So, this has been my prayer lately. I share it here in hopes that, perhaps, it will prove helpful to you:
I weave a silence on to my lips
I weave a silence into my mind
I weave a silence within my heart
I close my ears to distractions
I close my eyes to attractions
I close my heart to temptations.
Calm me, O Lord, as You stilled the storm
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm
Let all the tumult within me cease
Enfold me, Lord, in Your peace.
--prayer by David Adam