Silence- Part I:  Go to Your Room

Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ~ Matthew 6:6

Early Tuesday morning I woke up in the darkness. I tossed and turned but I could not go back to sleep because my mind was racing. I rolled out of bed and carefully walked through the minefield of shoes, books, and one sleeping dog on my path to the kitchen. There, I found an empty glass left over from last night’s dinner and filled it with tap water. After the drink, I looked at the clock on the stove which read 4:57 A.M. “It’s way too early to be up,” I thought to myself.

I went back to bed and tossed and turned and stared at the ceiling. I thought about turning on my night light and reading but that would not go well with Jennifer, my wife, sleeping next to me. I twiddled my thumbs forward and backwards. I said the Lord’s Prayer and tried to remember the Prayer of Francis of Assisi. “Lord make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon…” What comes next? “When I can’t sleep, give me sleep,” I said.

Nothing settled my restlessness. Then more words formed in my mind, and I started an internal dialogue. “You said silence is your prayer language. So go pray.” “It’s too early and I need sleep.” “Yes, but it is very quiet and still now. Go pray.” “I’ll pray when I get up, after some sleep.” “Go to your room.  Be still and enjoy the silence.” “Now?” “Yes now.” “But I’m tired.” “Go to your room and just be still.”

Sleep was not happening, so I reluctantly got up again and walked to our back bedroom which functions as a reading room and a prayer room now. I shut the door, lit an unscented tealight candle, and closed my eyes as the silence slowly surrounded me as I breathed in and out.

The “formless void and darkness” outside the window was strangely comforting. I have never liked the early morning, but the stillness and the solitude of this morning were heavenly. “There must be times when we practice a healthy life of silence, when our bodies, hearts, and minds must be stilled enough so that, somehow, we can sense what lies beyond our activities, life itself, God,” says Father Richard Rohr.

John Dear, a former nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, writes, “Silence can be God’s language, the language of peace. Our own silence leads us to the silence of God.” In the quiet stillness, we can hear what the Divine wants to say to us.

What is our relationship with silence? Do we take time each day to be still and to listen?

Meister Eckhart wrote, “Nothing resembles the language of God so much as does silence.” In silence, we move beneath language to a deeper understanding and intimacy. There is no need for words. “We will know and be known in a language beyond ordinary words,” writes Ron Rolheiser. We fall into the presence of love and acceptance.  As Mother Teresa said, “For prayer is nothing but complete surrender, complete oneness with Christ.”

Yet, in a world full of noise, words, and constant movement we often fear silence and stillness. What is lurking beneath the surface of our near constant activity?

When Ro and I hiked the Colorado Trail, we pitched our tent in the late evening, and when the darkness and quiet closed in on silent nights, my fear and anxiety grew exponentially. I thought that lions and tigers and bears must be stalking us in the silence. “In silence all our usual patterns assault us. That is why most people give up rather quickly. When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, the first things that showed up were the wild beasts,” says Rohr.

As we practice contemplative prayer or silent prayer and meditation, we start dropping past our fears and anxieties (the beasts in the wilderness) into the peace of God. Silence becomes our friend, not an enemy. We learn to listen, “for in the silence of the heart God speaks,” wrote Mother Teresa.

How do we get there? Just be still and surrender to the way of grace and marvel at the beauty that emerges from silence and space. The birds always sing in the silence after the storm, so it is with us as well. We can close our eyes, breathe in calmness, breathe out joy, and dwell in the spirit of a “peace that surpasses understanding” (see Philippians 4:7).

I sat in the still darkness that morning. Yellow beams of candlelight flickered across my closed eyelids. Each breath was a gift, and peace emerged from the silence. When I opened my eyes, the trees were taking shape in the morning dawn. A robin hopped on the grass outside my window. The leaves fluttered in the morning breeze. The sky gave hints of the rising sun. Thank God for the gifts of a quiet room or space where we can be still.

May we return to silence each day and breathe in and out a peace that surpasses understanding. Amen.

Blessings and peace,


Posted in Meditations.