"Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and in others a habit of dependence on God's guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God."
William Penn put it more succinctly and passionately when he wrote, "Therefore, O friends, turn in, turn in, I beseech you...."
You can't watch Christian television for long (say, oh, about five minutes) before you see some book or CD or DVD advertised which promises to show you how to "unlock God's miracle power in your life" or "walk in victory" or some such manifestation of what is considered to be a successful Christian walk. Likewise, your local Christian retail outlet is filled with tomes offering step-by-step guidance for living a satisfying Christian life.
With that in mind, I'm a bit reluctant to say this, but I think I've come upon a secret. It may not unlock miracles and prosperity, but it has helped me to walk daily with a deeper sense of God's love and purpose. It has made me more tender-hearted and patient and concerned for others. It has mysteriously given me strength and conviction to let go of bad habits and besetting sins. It has given me a lasting sense of peace. I only say that it's a secret because it's something I had never heard about in twenty-five years of being an evangelical charismatic Christian. It's not a complicated thing--in fact it's incredibly simple. It's amazingly easy yet, paradoxically, strangely difficult.
The great secret is this: Spending time listening to God in stillness and silence.
I have found that if I can spend one hour in the morning sitting in silence, it has a profound effect upon the rest of my day. This is a time of intentional stillness, the goal of which is to dial down and listen. That's the key: It is a time of listening and waiting for God.
Here are some of the difficulties one might encounter in doing this:
1. In our culture, where efficiency is paramount, it can be difficult to carve out one hour. For me, this means getting up earlier, which means going to bed earlier. I'm a night person, so this goes against my natural inclination.
2. It can also be difficult to find a place of uninterrupted quiet and privacy, especially if one has children.
3. It can be difficult to let go. We want to do something. Shouldn't I be praying to God, or reciting the Psalms, or meditating on the Lord's Prayer, or something? Obviously, none of these are bad things, but that's not what this time is for. The challenge here is to not feel the need to perform or initiate or do, but to simply wait and listen.
4. It can be difficult to still one's mind. Mundane and distracting thoughts come bubbling up. The harder one tries to suppress them, the more one finds one's attention focused on these thoughts, rather than on listening. I've read many suggestions on how to deal with this. What seems to work for me is to not fight the thoughts but to observe them, like I would clouds floating by while laying in a field looking up into the vast open space of the sky. The goal, after all, isn't to empty oneself of conscious thought. Rather, it is to open oneself up to hear God.
I must confess that I engage in this daily time of silent listening less than I would like. But when I do take the time to be still and "wait in the light" (as Quakers like to say), I find that I am deeply rewarded. It has become something that I hunger for.
To quote William Penn again:
"If you would know God and worship and serve God as you should do, you must come to the means he has ordained and given for their purpose. Some seek it in books, some in learned men; but what they look for is in themselves, though not of themselves, but they overlook it. The voice is too still, the seed too small and the light shineth in darkness; they are abroad and so cannot divide the spoil [In other words, they are outwardly focused and so miss the treasure. - DC]. But the woman that lost her silver found it at home, after she had lighted her candle and swept her house. Do you so too and you shall find what Pilate wanted to know, viz., truth, truth in the inward parts..."