Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Prayer and Silence (Prayer Life)

Weed in my backyard

When he opened the seventh seal, 
there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
- Revelation 8:1

To find a moment of silence in life is to find a pause. In a musical score a beat of silence is called a "rest."

The heavenly silence of the book of Revelation is dramatic and anticipatory. Something is about to happen. First incense, then seven announcing trumpets. Silence provides the necessary background to the heralds of God.

In prayer it is good to have a silent heart. A silent heart is an uncluttered heart. In the noiseless unclutter one can more clearly hear the voice of God. When it comes to hearing and understanding silence is good, noise is bad. 

But I have calmed and quieted myself...
- Psalm 131:2

See an artcile in the New York Times - "I'm Thinking. Please. Be Quiet." What happens to a person who lives with constant noise, such as living by an airport? A 2009 study looked at the effect of airport noise on sleeping subjects. We read:

"The findings were clear: even when people stayed asleep, the noise of planes taking off and landing caused blood pressure spikes, increased pulse rates and set off vasoconstriction and the release of stress hormones. Worse, these harmful cardiovascular responses continued to affect individuals for many hours after they had awakened and gone on with their days."

Audible assaults affect us psychologically. "A recent World Health Organization report on the burden of disease from environmental noise conservatively estimates that Western Europeans lose more than one million healthy life years annually as a consequence of noise-related disability and disease. Among environmental hazards, only air pollution causes more damage."

An incessantly noisy soul is a diseased soul. Constant noise hinders sustained thinking. For this reason the makers of our Constitution had "the street outside Independence Hall covered with earth so that their deliberations might not be disturbed by passing traffic.” 

Silence is needed to think well, and to be able to hear ourselves think. This is why libraries are silent. Silence helps us focus. 

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded 
than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
- Ecclesiastes 9:17

Noise wars against hearing. Listening requires the soul to pause, to rest. Silence, therefore, is needed to pray well.