Two-Thirds of Piety

We need to learn the discipline of silence.

Two-thirds of piety consists in being silent.

  - The Rule of Ailbe, Irish, 7th century[1]

Be silent in the presence of the Lord G

  - Zephaniah 1.7

If prayer is talking with God, and not merely to Him, then there should be a good deal of silence in our prayers, time when we are listening for the Lord to speak to us.

If we don’t learn to listen for the Lord in our times of devotion, we may struggle to hear Him throughout the day, as He leads us this way or that.

No real conversation is strictly one-sided. No true communion of friends finds one always talking and the other always listening. In prayer we have much to say in praising and thanking the Lord, and in seeking His mercy and grace to help in our time of need.

But if there is not also much time for silence, for listening to the Lord, then how will we ever truly enter into His Presence? And how will we learn to hear Him during the rest of the day, if we don’t listen for Him in those times specially devoted to Him?

It’s doubtless true that the Lord has more to say to us than we should ever say to Him, so unless we master the discipline of silence, we’re going to miss a good deal of the promise and power of prayer.

We note Ailbe’s remark that two-thirds of piety should consist in silence. And doesn’t that make sense? In the silence of prayer, we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, exalted in glory, seated at the Father’s right hand. We seek the glory that radiates from His face (Rev. 1.14; 2 Cor. 4.6). We delight in His beauty, bask in His radiance, and rest with Him on His throne beside the Father (Eph. 2.6). We draw near to Him in silence, and we are renewed in His sacrifice, rededicated to our sanctification, and reassured of our status as the children of the living God.

In the silence of prayer we wait on the Spirit to convict us of our sins (Jn. 16.8-11), to lead us more deeply into the truth of God’s Word (Jn. 16.13), to suggest areas where we need to grow or serve or seek the Lord’s help in some endeavor, and to guide us in preparing for our daily work (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17). We do not expect voices or visions, only the still, small impulse, influence, reminder, or prompting of the Spirit to guide and direct us this way or that. Or to bring to our mind some clear word from Scripture, speaking into our time of need.

Such focusing and listening in prayer is transformative, as God works in the silence to shape our minds, hearts, and consciences for His work.

By growing in our vision of Jesus and experience of the Spirit during those times of prayer, we become more sesnsitive to His leading throughout the day, where the piety He is forming in us comes to expression in our words and deeds. As the Spirit leads, makes us aware and willing, and empowers us to live our faith, we express His transforming work in everyday situations. The more we look to and listen for the Spirit, for Jesus, and for our Father in prayer, the more we will improve in hearing the Lord throughout the course of our daily lives. Our words and deeds will have more of the fragrance of Christ, and less of the stale air of mere self-interest.

We will have a difficult time hearing the daily impulses of the Lord apart from devoting ourselves to periods of silence. Be silent before the Lord in prayer, and you’ll find that you hear Him more consistently and more clearly throughout the day.

And since most of our time each day is spent being silent – doing our work, driving here or there, preparing for this or that – we will discover in that two-thirds of piety, the Presence and power we need to live the grace of Jesus to people when it’s time to minister to those around us.

God is waiting in the silence to show us great things and mysteries we have not known (Jer. 33.3) – beginning with Himself. All we have to do is go there, be quiet, and wait.

For Reflection
1. Why is it important to have times in silence, in which we wait on the Lord?

2. How can you add more such times of silence to your own walk with the Lord?

Psalm 46.1-3, 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.

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! 

Teach me to be silent before You, O Lord, so that in the silent moments of my day, I may…

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T. M. Moore

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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Ó Maidín, p. 25.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore