Wednesday, September 4, 2013
A Fearful Thing
One thing which scares the gathered church is silence. There is not much of a Quaker spirit in most contemporary Protestant churches. Noise is preferred over silence. There are those moments when we give lip service to the value of silence, but it is so perfunctory that it ends up being a meaningless moment hardly taken seriously by anyone. It happens when the preacher or worship leader begins a congregational prayer by inviting everyone to enter into silent prayer as a prelude to the verbal praying about to come forth from the chancel area. Sometime instead of praying silently, put a timer on the length of time allowed for the silent prayer. Never is it really much time for praying.
In a recently read book entitled "Why Jesus?" by Ravi Zacharias, he writes, "The Church has forgotten the teachings of quietness, solitude, and meditation that are a part of our Judeo-Christian heritage and provide great strength to the soul. We have moved from silence to noise. We have moved from reflection to fast-moving programs. We have moved from quietness to the inability to remain focused on a thought for even a moment, so that the next item on the program has to begin as soon as the previous one has finished. There is no time in our services anymore for quietness and contemplation."
What that timer will reveal is that people are often invited to silence, but never really given permission to engage it. The assumption from the one inviting the congregation to pray silently is that there is a switch which turns prayer on and off. No one is allowed time to transition from where they are to where they are being invited to go. And, of course, the prayer is arbitrarily ended or interrupted after 30 seconds by the sounds of public praying. Is it really true that the church is so afraid of enough silence to actually allow its people to pray when gathered? Maybe it is too fearful a thing.