Monday, July 13, 2015

Silence Is Needed to Pray Well

Raindrops in my front yard

When he opened the seventh seal, 
there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Revelation 8:1
(I'll preach on this verse at Redeemer on Sunday morning, July 26.)

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

The heavenly, ontological silence in Revelation 8:1 is dramatic and anticipatory. Something is about to happen. First the incense, then seven announcing trumpets. Silence provides the dramatic background to the coming heralds of God.

In praying 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. A silent heart is a heart at rest. When it comes to hearing and understanding silence is good, noise is bad. 
But I have calmed and quieted myself...
- Psalm 131:2

I read an article in the New York Times that advocates for silence.[1] 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 is needed to pray well.