I am morally certain, that I have many a day gone through the cares and concerns of life, with much more composure, stability, satisfaction and propriety, for the strength and assistance I have found in drawing near to God in solemn silence in my family.
– Job Scott,
[Early Friends] made the discovery that silence is one of the best preparations for communion [with God] and for the reception of inspiration and guidance. Silence itself, of course, has no magic. It may be just sheer emptiness, absence of words or noise or music .... But it may be an intensified pause, a vitalized hush, a creative quiet, an actual moment of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with God.
– Rufus M. Jones,
Spiritual Message of the Religious Society of Friends, 1937
We value our times of waiting silently in holy expectancy. Many of us have quiet periods alone regularly; we share quiet before or after meals or with others in our meetings; silence is the context of our worship. Silence is also the context in which we come to inward reliance upon God. It brings us to our true commitment, our concerns, and our leadings.
By 1660 [George Fox] had taught some 50,000 Friends, as he called them, to sit in silence under the inwardly searchlighting truth which showed up every act or impulse of self-will or self-righteousness. Naturally, they quaked, struggled, and despaired for months, upheld meanwhile by fellow-quakers alert to self-made escapes, until finally a “new man” was born within, able to respond freely to positive leadings of the Light, and joy broke through. The Light was also the Spirit of Christ, whose power and judgment Friends had found to be loving.
– Hugh Barbour,
“William Penn, Model of Protestant Liberalism,” in Church History, 6/1979
We benefit from reserving times for quiet reflection on our lives and on those “promptings of love and truth in our hearts, which are the leadings of God.” Our worship, deeper than words, reminds us that we wish to give the first place in our lives to the unseen and eternal. Friends look forward to sharing silence with other Friends, to sharing insights in worship, and to sharing leadings.
And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us, and the gift of God’s holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters.
– Edward Burrough, “Epistle to the Reader,”
in George Fox, The Great Mystery of the Great Whore Unfolded, 1659
Silent times help to heal us from hurts of the mind and body. The quiet has brought us refreshment and strength to do what we thought ourselves unable to do or even to contemplate. Especially in the worshipping group, many have found “the evil within us weakened and the good raised up,” despair and turmoil lessened, and steadfastness of purpose strengthened. We have often come to understand others’ cares and unite with their concerns.
Generations of Friends have remarked how well they began to appreciate the silence when, as children, they worshipped daily with their families and attended worship with Friends at meeting. Cultivating quietness and inward listening makes us increasingly able to remain silent when it is not necessary to speak or to speak the wisdom that comes from stillness.
When your heart is wandering and distracted, bring it back quickly to its point, restore it tenderly to its Master’s side, and if you did nothing else the whole of your hour but bring back your heart patiently and put it near our Lord again, and every time you put it back it turned away again, your hour would be well employed.
– Francis de Sales,
in Thomas Green, Preparation for Worship, 1952