Is it Biblical to be silent before God in Prayer?

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jonathanmbowman

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi, I have been wrestling with some aspects of prayer recently. I know that many voices, not necessarily reformed voices, emphasize the importance of listening to God in prayer. Then the step further is that many people say that it is Biblical to be silent before the Lord referencing verses such as Psalm 46:10. If God "has spoken" (Hebrew 1:1-2) and his word is truly totally sufficient, then wouldn't it be pointless to be "silent before the Lord?" I have very little education on this and would love some scriptural guidance. Thank you for your time and thought.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Hi, I have been wrestling with some aspects of prayer recently. I know that many voices, not necessarily reformed voices, emphasize the importance of listening to God in prayer. Then the step further is that many people say that it is Biblical to be silent before the Lord referencing verses such as Psalm 46:10. If God "has spoken" (Hebrew 1:1-2) and his word is truly totally sufficient, then wouldn't it be pointless to be "silent before the Lord?" I have very little education on this and would love some scriptural guidance. Thank you for your time and thought.

I'll jump in here and say that there is no listening to God in prayer. Praying is asking. God speaks in his word, alone. This is from a paper I wrote on the much-touted concept of listening for God's voice (or waiting for his prompts, or hunches, or whatever is being promoted):

"These and similar phrases in Scripture have, at times, been misunderstood to mean that God’s people should listen for him to speak as they wait in stillness and silence. "For God alone my soul waits in silence..." (Psalm 62:1a) is one such phrase that has been used in that sense. But the very next half of the verse shows that David is not waiting to hear God's voice inwardly, but is waiting for rescue: "... from Him comes my salvation" (Psalm 62:1b). Psalm 62 is a song about God’s deliverance from the schemes of wicked men. It proclaims that God is the only Savior: "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is in him" (verse 5). God has revealed to His prophet David that He has all power, and David proclaims it.

"Similarly, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a) is another text sometimes misused to teach listening for inner guidance from God. In Psalm 46, “be still and know” is a plural command, as God is speaking to the nations among whom he will eventually be exalted, as the context of the Psalm shows. He is reassuring his people that although "the nations rage, and kingdoms totter," his people can rest, knowing that their God will finally make the kingdom of this world to become his kingdom alone (Revelation 11:15). Psalm 46 speaks of the greatness and of the final exaltation of God among the nations. It is not a text modeling how to get inner guidance for decisions or problem-solving!"

What we have been given is so much better than any supposed "spiritual discipline" or practice of being still or quiet before God and/or listening for his voice. You are wise to inquire about it!
 

jonathanmbowman

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you Jeri,

That was very helpful. That's what my gut told me, but I didn't know how to verbalize it. It's a comfort to know God has given us his word because it frees me from feeling like an inadequate Christian because I don't "hear" from him in prayer.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I thoroughly agree with Jeri. It seems that too many people want to "hear God's voice" because they do not look to His Word, or don't like what it says. On the flip side, God "speaks" to us as we see providence unfolding. We might receive an "answer to prayer" not because He "told" us something new, but because He gave or withheld that for which we asked.

Therefore, we look to His Word so that we hear Him speaking and know what is lawful to ask of Him. We look to providence so see His answering of prayer and His secret decree unfolding. To look for more than this is to seek further verbal revelation from God and adding to Scripture.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This verse is also taken out of context and used by some New Agers and other like mystics to refer to the reader of the psalm, i.e., "Be still and realize that you yourself are god."
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Ecclesiastes 5
1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.a
3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
 

jonathanmbowman

Puritan Board Freshman
Ok, so I have been reading in scripture and wrestling with this all with some other close, like-minded friends. What does it mean when we say we are "Called to something." Ex- "God has called me to be a pastor." Or God "Called these men to be elders." Obviously not out of scripture, but just thing I have heard a lot in Christian circles. Would we say we are not "called" to anything except salvation if as God's elect?

Thank you all so much. My mind is exploding as I explore this. I have never had a great appreciation for the significance of God's Word. I've been reading this http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH01/06c.html Warfield's [ILeading of the spirit[/I] as well.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Again, I think we can understand calling through God's providence. Since God works all things according to the counsel of His will, we can understand our vocation as divine calling since He provided this way, though we should probably stay away from the kind of language that says "God told me to do this."
 

Joshua1:8

Puritan Board Freshman
Yea I went through a season where I was told to sit and just be quiet and listen for God to speak. So I did 10 min. 20 min. and just couldn't hear Him lol. I heard all these stories of how this person heard God clearly and I felt like I was somehow missing out. Then I remember sitting in prayer asking God to speak to me and yet noticed my bible was right in front of me closed. I was like "God speak to me" and the Word was right n front of me and it reminded me of what Augustine said "If you want to hear God speak, read out loud, if you want to hear Him speak louder, read louder," And it clicked, God has spoken already in His Word and what I needed was not some new revelation but illumination to what He has already said. I used to tell people why would I want to sit and wait for some mystical word when I don't even fully know the depths of what He has spoken already! God has spoken and is speaking through His Word to us. All we need is found in the Word. The Word is a "lamp to our feet and a light unto our path" as the Psalmist says. But look I will acknowledge biblically I do believe God can still "mystically/subjectively" speak to someone though of course many would disagree. Wayne Grudem would be a good guy to study on that. Also this clip by John Piper addresses that topic as well. http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-verbally-speak-to-me . I hope that is of any help. I would say as John Piper said just to reiterate that I would caution you strongly for looking to much for some mystical voice, and would rather exhort you to know what God has spoken. That is ultimately all we need.

As far as being "called to be a pastor." I do think we can know that which is why elders would lay hands on someone confirming that very calling which is laid upon someones heart. So to say "God has called me to be a pastor" is not a wrong statement. It just depends what they mean by it. For someone to say God told me mystically to be a pastor and yet they do not meet the qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3 then clearly they were not called. But if someone were to hear the desire to be a pastor and meet the qualifications to do so and the church were to confirm that calling, it would seem right and ok for him to say "God has called me to be a pastor." Which like I said the proof of that is the church laying hand on the man confirming he is called (1 Timothy 5). Also for example if I were to know you and see the work of God in your life and were as a part of the church to say I believe God has called you to be a pastor is not wrong. That is simply me just affirming as the church does the call of God on your life. Hope that makes sense. But I don't think we can just say God has solely called us to be saved. 2 Timothy says "God has called us with or to a holy calling" So God clearly calls us to holiness as well. And it would seem biblically right to say He does so in regards to gifts namely He has given us gifts and called us to use them as seen in Romans 12. So if you have the gift of pastor teacher as seen in Ephesians 4 and you say God has called me to be a pastor that is simply just acknowledging the call of God on your life and know doubt it would be assumed that we would be able to know our gifts in order for Paul in Romans 12 to tell us to use our gifts.
 
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