Thursday, February 5, 2015
Silencing the Noise: Follow-up
As I continue to think about the voice of God, I have been thinking more about silence. As an urban missionary I recognize that noise is all around us in the city. While we can't eliminate all of that noise, we still want to be in a position to hear the Lord. The first step in order to hear the Lord is to reduce the distractions as I mentioned in my previous blog. Once we have taken steps to eliminate the exterior noise, we still must silence the interior noise. One of the major hurdles that I have to overcome is my inclination for hurriedness. I am always in a hurry: I drive fast, I eat fast, I talk fast. I want things to keep moving. I don't like to wait. Unfortunately, I am an impatient man. This has caused serious tensions in our marriage, as my wife is very relaxed and deliberate. But after 16 years, I am finally learning. (Trust me, when you are ready to walk out the door and your wife is still getting ready, it's probably not a good idea to stand and watch her while continually asking if she's ready to go!)
So I am attempting to slow myself down. I'm not even fully sure how to do this but there is one type of prayer I have been practicing for a while that has helped tremendously and one new practice I am going to do more.
First, the Jesus Prayer has been a tremendous tool to help my mind focus on the Lord. It is not practiced much in evangelical circles but has been a key prayer in the Orthodox Church. This little prayer is simple yet extremely profound. It is simply, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." The key is slowly repeating this prayer over and over. I may say it up to 50 or 100 times in one setting. What I find as I meditate on these words slowly is that it centers my mind on Jesus and on the fact that I am in need of great mercy. If I have a distracted thought, I quickly say the Jesus Prayer. If I face a temptation, I pray the Jesus Prayer. At times, I can be at a loss of words for a certain situation, so then I pray the Prayer. The Jesus Prayer has definitely helped in my attempts at quieting my mind.
The second practice is called Lectio Divina, Latin for "Divine Reading." I have read about this way of reading the Bible over the years and have practiced on occasion, but I haven't made it a part of my normal Scripture reading. I have sensed the Lord wants me to put that more into regular practice. It is an ancient way of reading the Scriptures. It is simply to slowly meditate on a short passage and to listen with your heart and focus on a key word or phrase the Holy Spirit is highlighting.
Volumes have been written on these two disciplines, but I want to mention them to bring some very basic exposure. If you aren't familiar with them, I would encourage you to read more here on The Jesus Prayer and here on Lectio Divina. Christians have practiced these disciplines for centuries, and we can trace their roots to the first centuries of our Christian faith.
These practices aren't easy for me. It's not my normal nature. I would just as well read the Bible for 15 minutes and then move on to the next thing. But I know that hearing the voice of God and spending time with him through the Word will require extended times of silence. Spending extended time with the Lord it is similar to a steak marinade. There is a 30-minute marinade you can buy in a store; it doesn't really soak into the meat, but it is good if you are in a hurry. Or you can take the time to let the meat soak in the marinade over night. This allows the juices to soak and absorb all throughout the meat, and when you slow cook that meat you are in for a real treat. In the same way, we need to marinade our souls in the presence of God through silence and through slowly reading the Word.