Is God Silent or Are We Silent?


Does God speak today? Most people would say that he is silent.

Could it be that one reason God is silent is that we are silent? Do we really speak to him as if we want him to talk back?

What if we actually spoke our prayers to God–aloud–even when we’re alone? Some of you probably do that. There’s times when I’m alone in the house with God, me, and the dog. I’m talking to the dog, I’m talking to myself, I’m talking to God and I’m not sure I know the difference sometimes.

Thinking a prayer, not saying it out loud in community was likely not very common in the first few millennia of humanity when anything written that was read was read aloud. Prayers and Psalms were spoken aloud in community. This is how we got the Psalms. Augustine describes his friend, Ambrose when he read.

“When he read,” said Augustine, “his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.”

Hannah (1 Samuel) was thought to be drunk when she prayed moving her lips but without speaking.

Some of us are mouthing words, giving lip service, but it’s not ourselves but some alter ego or mimicking . . .

Robert Benson tells a story about Beattie who prays and God seems to always hear and respond. Beattie prays for a man’s back to heal, and the next day the man reports he is pain free. Beattie prays the rain will stop after a long bought of floods. And the rain stops. Benson says that he tried praying like his friend Beattie but nothing seemed to happen.

What was wrong? Was he not sincere? Was sin standing in the way? What red tape had come between he and God? Did he need to make his requests to God through someone more spiritual like Beattie? Get a quorum before the Lord through Facebook prayer requests so more people praying, maybe God would listen?

Benson says one day he finally realized that perhaps God was not answering his prayers because he was trying to pray like Beattie and not like Robert Benson. He was a fraud before God.

I confess I’ve been a fraud. I’ve asked God to rubber stamp my plans instead of humbly and openly asking God for his wisdom and complete direction on a matter. Perhaps God is unwilling to speak to me because he knows I’ve already decided and all I want is his rubber stamp.

What if I came to God with no pretense? What if I asked God to show me what to say, what to do on a daily basis, with tough decisions, with career and family and church decisions? What if God is not speaking to me because whenever I talk back to God all I’m doing is mimicking someone else’s prayers, asking for rubber stamps, and sinfully and selfishly asking only for what I want without caring one dry fig about what he really wants!

Praying aloud is a metaphor for asking God for his rule and reign in our lives. The act of saying out loud, “God, what do you want me to do today?” is an act of giving over control and power. For some of us, in the face of asking God for direction everyday, we’d rather just tough it out on our own. In reality, that’s what most of us are doing.

What if our first words aloud are, “God, I confess I don’t really want you to be in charge of my life and speak back to me because I’m afraid you’ll tell me to do stuff I don’t want to do . . . still, I want to know . . . What do you want me to do?”

6 comments on “Is God Silent or Are We Silent?

  1. Greg, thank you for your thoughts on prayer. Gives me a good ponder to want to talk to God aloud and more intimately.

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  2. Thanks, Janyt. I tend to think I can store up prayer like a squirrel with nuts in a tree and go through the winters of life drawing from that store, but I keep finding that each day it starts anew, that I need God daily, hourly, minutely. So I have learned some mantras like the Jesus Prayer, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This is from the beggar son of Timaeus who cried out to Jesus (Mark 10:47), “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” I pray it for myself, then go through each family member and others I’m praying for. “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on my wife, a sinner.” Then with each child, etc.

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  3. Greg, I am helped with “simple” (at least streamlined) disciplines like asking a particular question everyday like the one you suggest: “God, what do you want me to do today?” Am going to test drive your question…….and blame you if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do. (-:

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  4. Ross,
    The problem is I don’t know if I always get an answer daily, nor do I remember to ask. On my desk, I have a little cheat sheet of things I need to do each week lest I forget my main mission that I’ve run by God a few times and even those it seems I need to keep asking if they are my true purpose. I said a few more irreverent things about prayer but deleted them because sarcasm is hard to read on the internet and easier to read on someone’s face or tongue in cheek.

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