I am currently at a pastorâ€™s prayer retreat and we have been given the assignment of following the spiritual discipline of silence. Itâ€™ s not as easy as you might first think â€“ â€œjust donâ€™t say anything for 24 hours.â€ But once you close the noise coming out, there is also the noise inside your brain. Why is it that we have such a hard time simply being quiet and listening for Godâ€™s voice?
It might be that we associate silence with death (â€œdead men donâ€™t tell lies.â€) If I am speaking, then I am alive, or apart of whatâ€™s going on, or active with the conversation. Or even if you donâ€™t want to take that morbid path, we at least have to deal with the internal question, â€œAm I ok?â€ If not, then I want to keep the internal dialogue to a minimum and keep my hands busy, or the tv loud, or the car tires rolling (with the radio turned up). Anything to keep me from having to quietly face God and the question, â€œAm I ok?â€
After the battle of Mt. Carmel, Elijah (after having his life threatened) runs away. In Godâ€™s grace he comes to Elijah and says, â€œGo out and stand on the mount before the Lord.â€ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, â€œWhat are you doing here, Elijah?â€
The Lord was not in the great wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. He was in the whisper. It is not very hard to miss an earthquake, and wind that levels mountains, or fire sweeping in front of you â€“ but you might very well miss a whisper.
So if God desires to communicate with you in whispers, and not mighty acts of nature, then how do we discern or hear Him?
Make An Effort
1. You have to make an effort to approach God. Yes, God came to Elijah first  but Elijah had to come out and approach God. We have a relationship with God through Christ so there is no need to cover our faces â€“ but we must still go to Him. Elijah walks out of the cave.
Stop Talking (Outside and Inside)
2. God speaks in whispers, not earthquakes, fires, etcâ€¦ so stop looking for Him in the loud world and quiet your soul to listen. This again requires effort and discipline. Itâ€™s much easier to turn on the tv and mentally check out, verses having to stay focused on listening and remaining quiet.
Any time I have to listen to someone who speaks in such a way that is unnatural to my ear (broken English, some other language, foreign accent) it will after a while mentally exhaust me. Listening for and to God can be tiring â€“ but like learning a new language it gets easier.
Think of it as two people yelling at the same time â€“ thereâ€™s a lot of noise, but not very much communication. God intentionally speaks softly so that we have to quiet ourselves to hear Him. We need to hear what God is saying, not the other way around.
Study the Bible and Remember Why You Were Created
3. In the Garden of Eden everything was perfect, yet God still came and talked with
Adam and Eve. Even though life was perfect they still needed God to help them â€œfigure out life.â€  Mankind is like a mirror â€“ we were created to reflect the light of Jesus Christ. So how do we reflect His light into the world or â€œBear His image?â€ We have to listen and remember the reason for our existence â€“ to reflect the glory of God into our world. We need him to help us figure this out.
Salvation is not about filling an empty spot within us (or giving us something that we need or want). Instead, it is the ability to once again give God glory or â€œreflectâ€ the image of His Son in your life. Mirrors donâ€™t have batteries, they simply reflect whatâ€™s in front of them.
 1 Kings 19:11-13
 see also1 John 4:19
 Mark Driscoll. Doctrine (Crossway, 2009) p. 117