The rule of silence is decreed to be carefully observed, since it is written: But the nurture of righteousness is silence and peace. And thus, lest one be apprehended as guilty of much talking, it is needful that he keep silence, except for things profitable and necessary, since according to Scripture, in many words sin will not be lacking.
- Columbanus, Monks’ Rule II, Irish, 7th century
Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
And the fruitful field is counted as a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
And righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
- Isaiah 32.15-17
Isaiah was looking ahead to the day of the Spirit’s coming, when the Gospel would take root and flourish and bring forth righteousness in all those who truly know the Lord. As righteousness prevails, peace increases, and with it, quietness and assurance.
Thus Isaiah briefly describes life in the Kingdom of God. The Spirit brings the Kingdom to earth, and to our souls, and the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18). Righteousness describes the character of the Kingdom, and where that character bears fruit, the condition of peace obtains. In peace, we may know quietness and assurance, which lead to joy – the consequence of the Kingdom of God.
We are called to the Kingdom and glory of God so that we may know joy. Isaiah describes that joy in terms of quietness and assurance. In our assurance of being saved, as we experience quietness in our souls, we may discover the unshakeable joy of the Kingdom which is ours because of Jesus Christ.
Columbanus, quoting Isaiah 32, made quietness – silence – a discipline, so that his men could contemplate the reality of the Kingdom and know its joy, apart from the everyday noise of their busy lives. By practicing the discipline of silence, they set themselves apart for a time of basking in the peace, quietness, and assurance of salvation. They would know joy in those times of silence, apart from any works or activities, because they would be entirely focused on the Lord and His Presence, which alone is our true joy. And that joy would then carry them into their daily labors with renewed vigor and focus.
Most of us aren’t very good at silence. We surround ourselves with noise – mp3s, text messages, chatty conversation, social media, TV, CDs. Being silent is difficult. You sit, and wait, and listen – for what? We get antsy. Our minds fly off to everything we have yet to do. We just don’t see the value in being silent before the Lord. For some, silence may even seem like a waste of time.
But often in the silence, if we can manage to put away all our own words and distractions, the still, small voice of the Spirit of God will break through with a nudge, a prompting, a phrase, an insight, a startling illumination or a humbling conviction. Suddenly may come that sense of being in the Presence of the Lord, and of His joy enfolding and surrounding you with peace and assurance. Your heart will be strangely warmed. Your mind will feel completely at rest. You will know that all is well with your soul.
And then you will know why silence is so important. In silence, we may sense the Presence of the Lord in a way we normally do not, because we are normally distracted from sensing His Presence by the activity and noise of our lives. He is present with us always, but we don’t normally experience His Presence the way we can in times of silence.
But the discipline of silence takes time and practice. Some people take “silent retreats” and try to pack a weekend with silence. Others might take half a day and retire to some quiet place for meditation. Both can be helpful in entering the silence that allows us to sense the Lord’s Presence.
But part of your daily prayer time should be devoted to silence as well. Let your words cease, but let your mind and heart reflect on the Lord’s Presence in your immediate surroundings, as He will be with you in the day ahead, or during some important work or task. Linger over a passage or phrase from the Word of God, or a line from a hymn. Listen in silence as the Spirit stirs within and fills you. Let Him lead you into the images, thoughts, and opportunities for Kingdom living that await you in the day ahead. In silence, listening for the Spirit, know the joy of your salvation, and be revived for the day ahead, to take that joy to the world.
Redeem your time from noisy things; take your thoughts and moments captive for silence, as often as you can, as part of your daily prayers. For joy, you have been called to the Kingdom and glory of God, and in silence you may enter that joy as often as you will.
Psalm 46.1-5, 10, 11 (St. Chrysostom: We Have not Known Thee As We Ought)
God is our refuge and our strength; He is our help in times of need.
Thus though the earth beneath us should change, the sea consume the mountain range:
Waters may roar with raging speed; yet God will rescue us at length.
God’s everlasting, joyous grace gladdens the city where He dwells.
Safely in Him, we will not be moved; when morning dawns, His love will be proved.
Fears and distresses Jesus dispels for His beloved chosen race.
Rest in the Lord and be at peace, all who are mired in sore travail:
Lift up our God, praise Jesus our Lord; proclaim to all the earth His Word!
God is our stronghold, never to fail: thus may our hope and joy increase!
Lord, teach me how to keep silent before You, so that I…
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Walker, p. 125.