Spending quality time alone with God is a good thing and necessary for spiritual growth. But does our alone time with God always have to be quiet? David Powlison, a faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation and council member for The Gospel Coalition, has written an article titled “Stop Having Quiet Times” on TheGospelCoalition.org. He states,
“In the psalms, relationship with God happens out loud. More than 95 percent of the psalms express or invite audible words.”
Prayer is a verbal interaction, as Powlison points out. We may be expressing joy in who God is, thanks for what God has done, or asking for help for ourselves or others. Powlison relays,
“It’s fair to say that having a “quiet time” is a misnomer. It’s more of an out loud, ‘noisy” time.’”
There’s nothing wrong with silent prayers if our heart is engaged, and engaging silent prayers are usually prayers that could be spoken out loud if chosen or if the circumstance allowed. But we don’t want to get into a habit of always praying silently and never praying out loud. Jesus provided examples through his teaching and life of how believers can talk candidly to God out loud, but we should seek privacy to do so (unless we are in corporate or group prayer). Powlison writes,
“’Go to your room and shut the door,’ he tells us (Matt. 6:6). If others can’t hear you, you’re more likely to talk straight and you won’t be tempted to mouth prayers fabricated to impress. Jesus sought privacy for himself: ‘He went up on the mountain by himself to pray. He would withdraw to desolate places and pray’ (Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:16). Why? He was talking it out with his Father. But his disciples listened in on some occasions: ‘Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray”’ (Luke 11:1). Something about the candor, focus, directness, and scope of how Jesus sought his Father struck them.”
We can talk out loud to God in a room with a closed door, out on a walk, in the car, etc. Talking out loud helps us make that relational connection to God. If you’re having a conversation with someone out loud, it’s unlikely that you’ll just trail off and stop talking to them mid-thought…but with silent prayer this can be easier. Powlison explains,
“It’s easy for prayer to become a kind of muttering to oneself, a bucket list of requests, with little connection to who the Lord is and what he’s up to. It’s easy to slide into thinking of prayer as the evoking of certain religious feelings, or a set of seemingly spiritual thoughts, or a vague sense of comfort, awe and dependency on a higher power. It’s easy for prayer to meander into vague pieties, and to become virtually indistinguishable from thoughts. Sometimes prayer is confused with the act of stopping to ponder quietly and collect yourself.”
While we should be open to speaking to God out loud, we should also be aware of what He is trying to teach us and spend time listening and reading His Word. God’s Word reminds us to be still, to slow down, and to reflect. Powlison writes,
“The true God quiets us so we notice him, the God-who-speaks-words. When we notice him, we notice what’s going on around us, and we notice what’s going on inside us. So we become more honest. This true God is profoundly and essentially verbal, not silent: ‘God said . . . and it was so. . . . In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ So we listen to him. We take the time to hear his words of grace and truth.”
Our God is verbal and He listens to us, so we should also be verbal and listen to Him. When we talk out loud it reminds us that the person we are talking to is near. When we pray out loud, we remember that God is right here with us—He is listening, He cares, and He will act. Powlison concludes,
“God wants to catch your ear in order to awaken your voice. When you have your ‘quiet’ time, or as you walk outdoors, or during your commute, may the decibel level appropriately rise to joyful noise and cries of need—and may you trust that God listens to the sound of your voice.”
To read Powlison’s article in its entirety, please visit The Gospel Coalition.
Crosswalk Contributor Debbie Przybylski writes this in her article, A Petition to be Like Jesus in Passionate Prayer:
“Jesus was passionate in prayer. We see it in the way He lived. Intimacy with the Father was the theme of His life. Jesus is our teacher and life example. He prioritized prayer daily. It was important to Him, and He has much to teach us about prayer. He petitioned the father with fervent cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7). No wonder his disciples called upon Him to teach them to pray. Notice they didn’t ask Him to teach them how to preach but how to pray! He taught by example, He taught by passion, and He taught by words. The heartbeat of Jesus was for prayer and communion with the Father.
Hungering after God and prioritizing a life of intimacy and passionate prayer is up to us. The choice is ours. If we give it our all, we will not be disappointed. God will give us back so much more – not only in this life – but throughout all of eternity!”
A Petition to be Like Jesus in Passionate Prayer
Publication date: August 1, 2016
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.