Birdwatchers have always been an inspiration to me. They are advised to go out in the early morning, preferably in small groups. They must take their time – don’t rush. By walking slowly they will see more birds, especially the quiet or skulking ones. Above all they must be quiet. It lets them hear more birds and disturbs them less. For many who live in our noisy world perhaps the idea of bird watching may seem out-dated, even eccentric but to those disposed to taking time to be quiet and giving themselves over to patient waiting the rewards are plentiful as nature in all its wonder reaches out to them.
It can be challenging to try to explain to others the benefits and rewards of silent prayer when we frequently live in environments where noise, even background noise is usually the norm. Even those of us who attend weekly worship will know that most of our liturgical services are filled with noise and can be somewhat devoid of tranquil moments for silence.
A moment of silence each day before God has become a lifeline for me in my on-going relationship with the Lord. Just as the birdwatchers I mentioned earlier must take their time and stay quiet to interpret carefully each bird sound they hear so my being quiet and taking time allows me to listen to how God is touching my life. The challenge is always learning to listen to God in the silence.
Silence implies in part an absence of ambient noise, together with an inner state or attitude, which enables us to focus, to “centre” on the presence of God and to hear His “still, small voice". Silence will then bring about stillness. Stillness adds both tranquillity and concentration. Stillness implies a state of bodily rest coupled with the creative tension that enables a person to commune with God in the midst of a crowd. It means openness to Christ’s presence and to prayer.
I leave the final words of this refection to a passage attributed to St Augustine
"Let us leave a little room for reflection, room too for silence. Enter into yourself, and leave behind all noise and confusion. Hear the word in quietness that you may understand it."