Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth (Psa. 46:10).
Solitude is the creation of holy space and time for God, but it is not stillness; that is an inner condition. In Psalm 46:10, the word for still in Hebrew is raphah (raw-faw’). It means to sink, to relax by necessity as it were, to fall or hang limp. The short definition is to fail. To sag. It is the idea of coming to the end of oneself. In one passage it is translated to become helpless.
As O. Hallesby reminds us, “Prayer and helplessness are inseparable.” Other meanings are: to cease, to collapse, to be discouraged, even to drop, emotionally and physically. It can also mean to let one be alone, to leave one alone. Overall, it is the idea of stillness and solitude, of waiting out of necessity, at times, lifelessly.
We have interpreted the passage optimistically, “Be still, and know…” But the mood of the word, still, is not one of optimism, but desperation. In such stillness, God promises that we can know that He is God. Know is that familiar word, yada (yaw-dah’), which means to know – as in “Adam knew Eve.” It is beyond head awareness. It is the idea of experiential knowing. Know that I will be exalted among the nations, in the whole of the earth. Know it. Know who ‘I am’. Know me. ‘I am God,’ inviting you to know!
Pascal argued that we are afraid to slow down, lest our fears assail us and confront us with inner misery. The only other option is to continue the frantic, breakneck speed, to live in the numbing noise, to keep the adrenaline rush on so that we avoid the pain. In the world, we are offered a buffet of narcotics for the soul. Baptized in television and movies, games and events of this kind or the other, we engage in what Gary Thomas calls “a quiet, sleepless death in which we kill our souls by letting time race by.”
Thomas continues that being “…drugged by diversions [we] cannot expect to enter the quiet without a struggle.” Addictions are only broken with withdrawal.
For the ancients, there were four markers toward inner quiet.
- First, the heart had to be captivated. This is a matter of love, but not merely superficial emotion. Rather, profound love that tethers, that leads to singularity of heart and will.
- Second, a bridled tongue, thus, not only stillness, but the capacity for silence.
- Third, a limited curiosity, a narrowed focus that is capable of filtering out the peripheral, the things that distract.
- Fourth, they learned after losing themselves in God in the early hours of a day to reemerge slowly, to carry the air of the encounter with God into the day.
In stillness, we notice. At the end of ourselves, we find God. Depleted of options, God becomes our only hope.
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This blog is part of The Praying Church Handbook – Volume III – Pastor and the Congregation which can be purchased at alivepublications.org>
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 O. Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press, 1931), 17.
 Gary Thomas, Seeking the Face of God (Harvest House: Eugene, OR; 1999), 105.
 Ibid, 107.
 Ibid, 109.