Quietness – What True Communion Requires
By James W. Goll, www.encountersnetwork.com, March 19, 2006
Recovering Lost Messages – Be Still and Know
I want to share with you one of the keys to greater intimacy with God. As a student of Church History and the Word of God, I have found many hidden jewels over my years of reading and study. This is a small attempt to bring to the forefront some the hidden messages that need to be recovered for this generation.
I have found that intimacy with the Lord cannot be fully realized without quietness of body, soul, and spirit. An atmosphere of stillness is absolutely essential for the believer in Jesus to enter into the experience of His deep, communing love.
In order for us to hear His still, small voice within us, we must become quiet. (Psalms 46:10), the New American Standard Version tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.” Other translations of that verse are: “Cease striving, let go, relax, and know that I am God.” This “knowing” goes far beyond informational knowledge. It is rather, His Spirit in union with ours, His breath in us, His heart in our heart. This “knowing” is inseparable with the spirit of revelation that causes us to “know” and thus experience our true union with Christ.
Our lives are in such a rush that often we miss the imperative of quieting ourselves as we approach God. We just run up to God, blurt out our prayers, and rush away again. When we do this, I am convinced we will never fully enter His presence.
The psalmist David summed it up when he wrote, “Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him to act … don’t fret or worry … all who humble themselves before the Lord shall be given many blessings, and shall have wonderful peace.” (Psalms. 37:7, 8, 11)
Quietness is not a new discovery or a recent innovation. It isn’t even a new slant on an old discovery! It is a time-honored and proven method of fellowshipping with God that is almost totally ignored by modern-day Christians.
This type of contemplative waiting is, of course, just one of the expressions of prayer. It is not a quick fix to all our problems. It is, however, one neglected weapon in God’s arsenal that will help us find His path through life’s perplexing maze.
The Contemplative Lessons on Quieting Our Soul
Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ greatly influenced Watchman Nee, John Wesley, Hudson Taylor, and Madame Jeanne Guyon. Much of Madame Jeanne Guyon’s life was spent in confinement and prison in France, due to her religious beliefs. Her devotional writings compel the reader to move into a living experience of Jesus Christ, and her writings are still some of the most widely read classics of our day. From the writings of Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717):
Beholding the Lord
In “beholding the Lord,” you come to the Lord in a totally different way. Perhaps at this point, I need to share with you the greatest difficulty you will have in waiting upon the Lord. It has to do with your mind. The mind has a very strong tendency to stray away from the Lord. Therefore, as you come before the Lord to sit in His presence…beholding Him, make use of the scripture to quiet your mind.
The way to do this is really quite simple. First, read a passage of scripture. Once you sense the Lord’s presence, the content of what you have read is no longer important. The scripture has served its purpose: it has quieted your mind and brought you to Him.
Distractions – What about distractions? Let’s say that your mind begins to wander. Once you have been deeply touched by the Lord’s Spirit and are distracted, be diligent to bring your wandering mind back to the Lord. This is the easiest way in the world to overcome external distractions.
When your mind has wandered, don’t try to deal with it by changing what you are thinking. You see, if you pay attention to what you are thinking, you will only irritate your mind, and stir it up more! Instead, withdraw from your mind! Keep turning within to the Lord’s presence. By doing this, you will win the war with your wandering mind and yet never directly engage in the battle!
Disciplining the Mind
As you begin this venture you will, of course, discover that it is difficult to bring your mind under control. Why is this? Because through many years of habit, your mind has acquired the ability to wander all over the world, just as it pleases, so what I speak of here is something that is to serve as a discipline to your mind.
Be assured that as your soul becomes more accustomed to withdrawing to inward things, this process will become easier. There are two reasons that you will find it easier each time to bring your mind under subjection to the Lord: first of all, the mind–after much practice–will form a new habit of turning deeply within; secondly, you have a gracious Lord!
Jean Nicholas Grou (1730-1803) lived in Holland and France and was a Jesuit priest. He entered into a deeper life with God on a retreat in 1767, where he learned to live his life in the spirit of prayer and complete abandonment to God’s will. The following passage comes from his famous book, How to Pray:
The Voice of the Heart
You ask me what this voice of the heart is. It is love, which is the voice of the heart. Love God, and you will always be speaking to Him. The seed of love is growth in prayer. If you do not understand that, you have never yet either loved or prayed. Ask God to open your heart and kindle in it a spark of His love, and then you will begin to understand what praying means.
If it is the heart that prays, it is evident that sometimes, and even continuously, it can pray by itself without any help from words, spoken or conceived. Here is something which few people understand and which some even entirely deny. They insist that there must be definite and formal acts. They are mistaken, and God has not yet taught them how the heart prays. It is true that the thoughts are formed in the mind before they are clothed in words. The proof of this is that we often search for the right word and reject one after another until we find the right one which expresses our thoughts accurately. We need words to make ourselves intelligible to other people, but not to the Spirit. It is the same with the feelings of the heart. The heart conceives feelings and adopts them without any need of resorting to words, unless it wishes to communicate them to others or to make them clear to itself.
For God reads the secrets of the heart. God reads its most intimate feelings, even those that we are not aware of. It is not necessary to make use of formal acts to make ourselves heard by God. If we do make use of them in prayer, it is not so much for God’s sake as our own, in that they keep our attention fixed in His presence.
The Prayer of Silence
Imagine a soul so closely united to God that it has no need of outward acts to remain attentive to the inward prayer. In these moments of silence and peace, when it pays no heed to what is happening within itself, it prays and prays excellently with a simple and direct prayer that God will understand perfectly by the action of grace. The heart will be full as aspirations towards God without any clear expression. Though they may elude our own consciousness, they will not escape the consciousness of God.
This prayer, so empty of all images and perceptions… apparently so passive and yet so active, is–as far as the limitations of this life allow–pure adoration in spirit and in truth. It is adoration fully worthy of God in which the soul is united to Him as its ground, the created intelligence to the uncreated, without anything but a very simple attention of the mind and as equally simple application of the will. This is what is called the prayer of silence, or quiet, or of bare faith.