(This blog is part of a series. See my blog entitled "Worship Formation" posted on August 31, 2012 for the introduction to the series)
Silence has long been an important aspect of personal and corporate worship. It is a time to quiet the soul in order to become receptive to God’s revelation. Most often, silence in worship is misunderstood. It is not a time to pray lifting supplication before the Lord or to focus one’s attention on a particular Scripture passage. Instead, silence in worship is a time to be still and let God do what God will do. It’s a time of surrender as we release our agenda allowing God to set the course of the silence.
In Space for God, Don Postema quotes the character Emily from the Thorton Wilder play Our Town: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?” Our lives are so busy that we rarely stop to realize that we are alive. Silence helps usher us back into the appropriate rhythms of life – and worship – leading to an openness of God’s touch on our lives. “Appropriate moments of silence contribute to the rhythm of revelation and response in worship by providing “waiting space” for the revelatory work of God’s Spirit.”
Despite the command for us to be still and know that He is God, silence within contemporary worship services has become filled with negative implications. All too often silence is seen as “too liturgical” and therefore eliminated from the corporate gathering. In the media driven, television production culture in which we currently live, silence is to be avoided and is even termed “dead time.” The busyness of our lives, the hectic pace of our schedules, the intensity of our personalities saturate our lives on a daily basis and make their way into our times of worship.
Embracing times of silence in worship allows God the opportunity to speak. Much of what else we do in worship is directed toward God. In every element of worship, there should be aspects of revelation and response, yet silence is primarily the time to allow God to be the communicator as we do nothing else but listen to His voice. As we hear from God we open ourselves to the opportunity to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In silence, God is given permission to form us from within in a way that only He can.