Devotional Day 39 – Quiet Enough to Hear

1 Kings 19:13 – When Elijah heard it [sheer silence], he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Devotion: My first few trips for a Day of Silence at the Kings House Retreat Center in Belleville, Illinois, were disastrous.  Sr. Joan Marie Voss recommended I begin my spiritual journey by sitting in silence for an entire day.  She gave me the same instructions at each visit: “be still and know He is God.”[1]  The sheer silence was deafening.

All I could think about was the work waiting on my desk at church, the unfinished chores at home, the families who needed visited, the people in the hospital, the upcoming Bible studies, sermon topics needing preached, and my failures to be a great minister. The longer I sat in silence the faster time seemed to stagnate. The seconds ticked past like the slow march of death.  I sat like an elementary school child waiting for the recess bell to rescue me from boredom.  There was a constant nagging voice, “What are you doing here?  Go back to work.  Go do something.”  I stayed because I knew there was transformative value in the spiritual discipline of contemplation. 

I made lists of next action steps, people to visit, projects to finish, prayer concerns, and creative new ideas for revitalizing a congregation.  Personal thoughts, Bible reflections, philosophical ideas, and psychological insights filled my journals until I reached the point that there was nothing left to write or say (if you can believe it).   I walked the grounds, sat in the sun, prayed prostrate in the chapel, and sometimes fell asleep.

Nevertheless, I persevered because great spiritual writers talked about the need for sheer silence to hear God.   Then, one day, like the prophet Elijah, God whispered.  The Spirit revealed the Word beyond my expectation.  Days of Silence became a regular part of my spiritual practices.

We do not always hear God in the great and powerful wind of words, in the thundering earth moving below our feet, or in fiery Pentecostal enthusiastic outbursts.  God can speak in sheer silence – in whispering tomes – if we will sit, be still, and listen.  The Spirit hovers over us, like the Spirit hovered over the waters of chaos on the First Day of Creation, to move at the Father’s Word to bring us the radical change of New Life. Then, in the presence of God, we too need to pull our cloak over our faces and stand at the mouth of our caves.

Prayer: God our Father, I confess that I say too many words, I speak when I should be silent, I walk when I should sit, and I am busy when I should be resting.  Forgive me.  Give me moments of sheer silence so I can hear your whispered Word.  In Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen. 

Prayer Exercise:  “Tallith: The Prayer Shawl,” page 128, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  


[1] Psalm 46:10

About Dr. Ivan E. Greuter

A native of Nebraska, Ivan accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and experienced a call to the ministry at a young age. He graduated from Kearney Senior High before attending Ottawa University (Kansas) where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He attended Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL to earn a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Care and Counseling (1999) and a Master of Arts in Philosophical Theology (2002). In 2014, Ivan earned a Doctor of Ministry in Missional Spirituality from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. His dissertation: “Searching For God When You Have Lost Your Dogma: The Promise of New Life for an American Baptist Congregation by Increasing Passionate Spirituality through Devotional Consideration of the Doctrine of the Trinity and Natural Church Development.” He served as the senior minister at First Baptist Church of Wood River, Illinois (1999-2006), and Central Baptist Church of Quincy, Illinois (2006-2016) prior to joining the staff at West Side Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Ivan enjoys French cooking, fly fishing, gardening, and playing games with family and friends. Ivan and his wife, Rexanne, live in Topeka with their three children – two daughters and a son.
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1 Response to Devotional Day 39 – Quiet Enough to Hear

  1. CommonSenseGuy says:

    This really speaks to me… not wait, it DOESN’T speak… so to speak.

    One of the best days I ever spent was during a week-long canoe trip when it was too rainy to go anywhere. I spent the entire day feeding the campfire and experiencing the silence of the woods.

    Quiet is really frightening for most of us, it forces us to listen to things we usually miss. Thanks for this post.

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