The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Prayer

February 5, 2020

When you pray, how much of it is you talking? Most often we think of prayer as talking, one-way communication with God. This is certainly a part of prayer and should be greatly increased!

But for this issue, we want to reflect on what it means pray following the instructions given in Ecclesiastes 5:2, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” The writer of these words encourages all of us to practice restraint in our prayers to God.

“Let your words be few!” This is especially relevant to leaders who spend much of their time communicating with words. They talk clearly, boldly and often, as they share their vision and dreams with others. It is quite natural for a leader to come to God in the same way, with many words! The challenge for servant leaders is to learn to lead silently in prayer, with few words. As they do, they learn the power of silence in prayer.   

Silence in prayer exhibits submission. “Do not be quick with your mouth…” The person who talks usually controls the conversation. That’s why it is so hard to be quiet! The person who is quickest to speak often controls the situation. Leaders especially want to be in control and demonstrate this by talking, often loudly! Leaders are used to showing the way, giving instructions and calling others to action. When it is time for prayer, leaders naturally seek to influence God as they do others—with many words! But silence says, “I am not in control, I am not the boss!”

Being silent shows an attitude of submission. Ironically, submission takes tremendous courage. It demonstrates trust in God instead of trust in self. Servant leaders demonstrate submission in prayer by being silent before God.

Silence in prayer encourages listening. “Let your words be few.” We cannot talk and listen at the same time. When we stop talking, we are able to listen. When we sit in silence, we begin to hear sounds that were there all along, but we didn’t hear them because we were focused on other things. When a leader is silent it is easier to listen. How often do we hear God? Sometimes we do not hear because we do not stop to listen!

Servant leaders learn that God often waits to speak until we are silent! They are willing to discipline themselves to be quiet to hear His voice. Servant leaders learn to listen by being quiet before God.

Silence in prayer expresses worship. “God is in heaven and you are on earth.” When we stop in silence, we begin to recognize who God is and who we are. We see His greatness and His power. This changes our view of ourselves and our leadership roles. The recognition of who God is brings a different perspective and frees us to worship God. We bow in reverent worship. Servant leaders express worship as they silently enter His presence.

Certainly, there are many times where words are appropriate in prayer. Jesus offered “prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears…” (Hebrews 5:7). But most of us do not struggle to talk; we struggle to be quiet! Silence in prayer is not easy, it is difficult. Servant leaders cry out to God for His grace to help them be silent in prayer. They discipline themselves to spend some portion of their time with God in silence.

As servant leaders grow in submission, and learn to listen, they find that silence helps them grow closer to God in worship. And as they grow, they increase their influence with those they lead. Silent leadership speaks loudly in prayer! Servant leaders move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Who controls my conversation in prayer: God or me? How does this impact my relationship with God? How does it impact my leadership?
  • Do I hear God’s voice as often as I would like to hear Him? If not, is this a result of Him not speaking or me not listening? What do I need to change?
  • We often evaluate our prayer life by how much time we spend talking. But how much time do I spend with God in silence? Is it enough? If not, what do I need to change? What makes it difficult for me be silent in prayer?
  • Some people pray “silently” meaning that they don’t speak audible words to God, they just “speak” through their thoughts. What does it mean for this person to be silent in prayer?