A quick perusal of the Book of Psalms, Isaiah, and Revelation will reveal that there are multiple commands and examples of the saints keeping silence before God. Sometimes they are aware of being a sinner in his presence. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by his power and holiness.
On the other hand, our culture is very uncomfortable with silence. Planning for silence before worship or during a confession of sin is somewhat contrary to good programming. Dead air is the unpardonable sin in broadcast. It doesn't make for good streaming. But silence does make for good reflection, confession, listening, meditation, and giving honor to God.
Silence in Worship
We often employ silence in our worship service. It’s usually 30 seconds here or 30 seconds there. This week I’ve asked one of our pastors to give it more time – just enough to allow those who are engaging well a bit more time to meditate on the word or confess sin. But also, for those who don’t quickly engage, perhaps it will be long enough to cause them to be a bit uncomfortable with their own thoughts. After all, making people feel comfortable is not my goal as a pastor of worship. Rather, it is to provide avenues for us to think God’s thoughts after him. How are we to do that without at least a little reflection and listening?
Do We Ever Stop?
Imagine I am on a date with my wife. If I talk about my day on the way, talk about my hopes for next year, and talk about a problem with a co-worker – then ask her about her day – then interrupt saying, “yeah, that happened to me too!” and proceed to tell her about more of my day – then I tell her what a good listener she is and proceed to tell her how great she – if I do all this is there any possible way for me to hear her?
Sometimes a worship service can become a one-way street: us telling God what we feel, think, know, hope for, etc. When we think of worship we almost always think about what we do or don’t do in worship. Do we ever stop?
Perhaps this week we could enter our time of confession of sin praying, “Lord, in your mercy, show me my sin,” and then wait for a moment or two. Silence can be a useful tool in the tool belt to help us think God’s thoughts after him. That’s hard to do if we fill all the dead air with ours.
Note: I hope you can see that I’m not encouraging us to hear new revelation from God, but I am encouraging us to settle our hearts and take a few moments to allow the Spirit of God to convict of sin or help us meditate on some portion of the Scriptures.