As a musician I learned that a pause, or silence within a piece of music being performed, can be just as powerful to energize the music as the musical notes. But it is not an absence of sound that makes the silence effective; the silence is part of the whole musical idea being expressed. I found that my equal attention to both silence and sound helped express the musical idea. I have also come to see this is true when we pray.
Silent prayer, or even a moment of silence at a public solemn event, is practiced in many cultures by people of different religions and those who have no religious affiliations. This silence is not a vacuum, though; it is often filled with quiet hope, or a deep desire to still the heart of fear.
Being silent is one way to be receptive to the Holy Spirit, God. Our desire to feel something of our spiritual connection with God, expressed without words, makes us receptive to the spirit of Love, God’s healing influence, operating within our hearts and minds. I often think of it as the pulse of divinity instructing me to “Be still, and know that I am God” as the psalm in the Bible reveals (Psalm 46:10).
Understood in this way, we can see that silence – or being still – is a type of prayer, an active acknowledgment of God, Spirit. The divine power of Spirit that can be felt during silent prayer helps us feel the healing and protecting presence of our Father in heaven.
“Our Father which art in heaven” is the opening line to the prayer Christ Jesus taught the whole world to pray (Matthew 6:9). The words of the Lord’s Prayer guide us to understand God as our creator. They lead us to the inevitable conclusion that as His children, we are in His kingdom, under His law of good, protected from evil and cleansed of sin. Every word of the prayer brings to each of us new inspiration as we are engaged in its meaning.
While speaking this prayer aloud holds great value, the meaning of our words reaches far beyond the verbal expression of them. The power of the prayer lies in what is not heard – the inaudible purity of an honest heart. The Lord’s Prayer inspires us to be true to both God and ourselves as the expression of our heavenly Father.
Our earnest desire to be more loving, honest, and like our Father in heaven accompanies our words – and together they stifle self-will and fear. In the silence of prayer we are able to know and feel the always present, all-knowing God who answers our every call. Couldn’t this be what Jesus meant when he said, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6)?
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explains this teaching of Christ Jesus in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “In order to pray aright, we must enter into the closet and shut the door. We must close the lips and silence the material senses. In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God’s allness” (p. 15).
This secret place of silent communion with God includes no ritual; it is the still and quiet place of the heart and mind. Wherever we are, we can practice this silent communion. This gives us plenty of freedom to pray – we carry our sanctuary with us – and our silent recognition of the power of our Father’s love blesses us and those around us.
Our moments of silence are effective as we reach inward in quiet communion with God. The silence, or quieting of the senses, allows us to feel His loving hand, which guides us to the answers we need and calms our fears. In this way, true silence is our active listening to our Father in heaven who blesses us openly.