The other week I wrote about Lectio Divina. One of my favorite ways to go deeper with the Bible. In that post, I made the point that if you want to hear from God, you have to learn to be silent before God. But I never actually described how a person becomes silent before God. And the truth is, being silent before God is actually quite hard. Maybe you have noticed this.
Because by quiet, I don’t mean just siting before God without talking. Though let’s be honest even that is hard enough sometimes. No, by quite I mean, quite in your soul, and in your mind. It is to “Be still…”. (Ps. 46:10).
Quiet before God is when you have no burdens weighing you down. No thoughts racing through your mind. No stress inside of you. When you are quiet before God there is a sense of feeling empty. But a good empty. An empty like a drinking glass is empty just before it is filled with water. An emptiness that is ready to be filled with the living presence of God.
So how does one actually enter into this kind of silence before God?
“palms down palms up”
One method, which has most helped me, is what Richard Foster calls “palms down palms up”. He writes,
“Begin by placing palms down as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God. Inwardly you may pray ‘Lord, I give to you my anger toward John. I release my fear of my dentist appointment this morning. I surrender my anxiety over not having enough money to pay the bills this month. I release my frustration over trying to find a baby-sitter for tonight.’ Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you, just say, ‘palms down.’ Release it. You may even feel a certain sense of release in your hands. After several moment of surrender, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord. Perhaps you will pray silently: ‘Lord, I would like to receive your divine love for John, your peace about the dentist appointment, your patience, your joy.’ Whatever you need, you say ‘palms up.’ Having centered down, spend the remaining moments in complete silence. Do not ask for anything. Allow the Lord to commune with you, to love you. If impressions or directions come, fine; if not fine.”
Over the years I have added variations to this “palms down palms up”. Usually when I want to be silent before God I start with my hands out in front of me in a pushing position. Then every time I confess something that is on my mind I imagine that I am pushing it away from me and toward Jesus. Then I imagine Jesus literally taking each of my burdens. I do this until I can’t think of anything else to give over to Jesus—until I feel quiet and empty. Only then do I turn over my palms, and receive the gift God has for me.
For me “palms down palms up” (or some variation of it) has been the most effective way for me to enter into silence before God, in preparation to hear from God. I pray it works just as well for you too. If you’re interested in other Christian practices that have long helped people enter into the presence of God, I would highly recommend Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.
 Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth 30-31