Quiet the soul

Prayerful silence may be Lent’s biggest challenge

Mar 9, 2020 by

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On the surface, it seems ironic to suggest to “the quiet in the land” that there is room for improvement in quieting the soul. But Lent is the perfect opportunity to get more intentional about slowing down and seeking a more contemplative spirit.

In many church traditions, the 40 days leading up to Easter are focused on prayer, almsgiving (service) and sacrifice. The Anabaptist default position is service, and many are only happy when they are uncomfortable, so sacrifice is second nature to a people who put great value on simple living.

That leaves prayer, so long as it doesn’t get cluttered by the hustle and bustle of all that service and sacrifice. These rather ancient Christian traditions are designed to bring Christians closer to God’s intention for our lives, but there can be an equal danger in getting lost in the busyness of that very pursuit.

Now isn’t the time to have one less cup of coffee or take a month off from chocolate just to be able to tell others you gave something up temporarily. These waning days of winter are the last good chance to strip away distractions before Christ, spring cleaning and hay fever bloom anew at Easter.

Service and sacrifice are important, but many Mennonites find those acts take care of themselves. Intentionally quieting the soul to become aware of God’s intimate presence might take more work. That may be why The Hermitage in Three Rivers, Mich., is so intentional about it.

A ministry of Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, The Hermitage’s mission statement is “Creating an environment of attentiveness to God,” and times of silence and prayer undergird life.

“In deep silence, I become more attentive to God,” writes June Mears Driedger on The Hermitage website about her experience there. “When I am in deep prayer, I can let God be God and me be me. When I am deep in prayer, I am my truest self with God.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean a monk-like vow of silence or a Quaker silent meeting — although some people find such experiences transformative. Still, daily life can be so full of “stuff” that making room for even a minute of silence can become spiritually significant.

Try adding some silence to worship, perhaps a minute amid Scripture readings or after a sermon. Too often we move so quickly on to the next thing to get done that we don’t leave any gaps for the Holy Spirit to drip in and percolate.

Mark out some time on your daily planner to do “nothing.” You might be amazed at what will happen.

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