Pathways to Prayer, Part 1: Holy Quietness
March 6, 2011
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Exodus 24: 16-18
16 The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the cloud.
17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.
18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
We are getting ready to begin the beautiful Church season of Lent. These are the forty days before Easter that Christians have celebrated through prayer and other spiritual practices. This is the time to get closer to God. I can't think of a better way to do this than through prayer, can you? Let's make going to church and praying every day part of our Lenten practice, shall we?
Today we begin a new Lenten sermon series called Pathways to Prayer. Our title and our topic for today's message is: Holy Quietness.
Another Way to Pray
When you want to go to God in prayer, do you ever feel the need to fill up the silence with words, either thought or spoken? It's always good to talk with God; but sometimes we don't know quite what to say.
That can make us anxious,
or impatient with ourselves,
or even impatient with the prayer process itself.
Here's the good news: there is another way to pray.
Let's explore that together.
The Mountain, the Light, and the Cloud
In the readings from Exodus this morning we see the phrase, “The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai.” Whenever we see the word “glory” in the Bible, we can substitute the words, “Heavenly light.” Also, when the Bible mentions “the cloud” it means the “presence of God.” When we read in the Bible about the presence of a cloud, we should know that the cloud on earth was, for the people of ancient times, the symbol of the nearness of God. To walk into a cloud, or be surrounded by a fog or cloud, was an awesome and amazing thing for the people of Bible times. This was taken by the people of the time to be an intense reminder of God's immediate presence. (Note: interestingly enough, the morning this sermon was preached was a foggy, misty morning. Thank You, Lord. PT)
We read in the Bible about Moses going up the mountain, and eventually into the cloud that hovered near the top of the mountain. We can imagine that as Moses drew nearer to the top, he must have been filled with a feeling of awe and wonder. He looked forward to drawing nearer to God.
There is a spiritual way that we too can "climb the mountain" and get "into the cloud" which represents the presence of God. I suggest that the way we can do it is through the practice of silent meditation: the Holy Quietness.
The Attractive Power of the Silent Prayer
We are urged to pray every day, aren’t we? But you don’t have to fill your prayers with words. Psalm 46:10 says, Be still and know that the Lord is God. I invite you to join me and make this kind of prayer part of your Lenten practice.
Many people will say that prayer is talking to God. That is true. In some of our prayers, we absolutely do want to talk with God.
But that is not all there is to prayer. Prayer is being still and knowing that the Lord is God. Prayer is also simply:
· Being still. Being gently and receptively quiet. Anticipating God’s presence.
· Being mindfully aware of the blessed silence, and of all that is happening around you.
· Being aware of God’s nearness in the present moment.
· Knowing that God is aware of you and that:
God is good.
God is blessing you right now.
God is loving you.
Simply be still, and know that God is God.
This gentle, quiet way of praying is one of the sweetest, most powerful and useful forms of prayer that I have ever experienced.
You'll Find the Desire to Linger with the Lord's Spirit
Dedicate some still, quiet time to the Lord. Be still, and simply listen. Listen and be aware of your own breathing. Be aware that God wants to say the Good Word to you.
We have two candles on our altar, which is very traditional in Christian worship. They symbolize the two aspects of the Spirit of Christ, both fully divine and fully human. A great writer named Charles Fillmore once said, “I am told that God is Spirit, I am told that I am Spirit. If that is so, then Spirit must be able to communicate with Spirit.” The two candles remind us of the two aspects of ourselves as well: flesh, and Spirit. In silent prayer, we meditate on this. We don’t have to let words get in the way.
You may find that one of the results of this kind of prayer is that you really are reluctant to close it! As the hymn put it, "I'd stay in the garden with Him…"
Christmas at Crosswicks
This Christmas I wanted to go to a Christmas service on a Sunday evening shortly before Christmas. The only one taking place nearby was at the Crosswicks Quaker Fellowship. I went to this service, not knowing what to expect.
I knew that Quakers had a silent component to their services. I was a bit nervous. What do you do during the silent time? The idea made me a little anxious. I was to be pleasantly surprised.
The ceremony was a beautiful, candlelit service held in a Revolutionary War era building. The songs were simple and the Scriptures were read in a simple fashion by members of the congregation. The periods of silence, though, were what amazed me. I found in that time of community stillness, in the midst of the flickering candles and gentle pine Christmas trees, that there was a wonderful feeling of Holiness that pervaded the atmosphere. It was uplifting, sacred and clear. It was silence filled with Spirit. It was more than silence. It was Stillness. And the Stillness celebrated in community had a remarkable sense of energy and, well, Presence to it. I look forward to incorporating more moments of Stillness in our worship services.
Make the Stillness Your Own - And Listen for the Lord
I am inviting you to make that part of your spiritual practice. Silent prayer is God’s open door. Climb up the inner mountain, and enter the mist of God's presence in the Stillness.
The Scripture tells us that when God speaks, He speaks the Good Word. He will tell you how valuable you are, how important and how needed you are. He will tell you how He wants you to prosper and how He wants to bless you. Take some time in Holy Quietness in this beautiful time of Lent. Let your spirit draw near to God's Spirit. Listen for the good and liberating insights, you don't have to say a word. Just listen for the Lord. Because -
God loves you; I do too. I wish you a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski