Translating the Silence

There are times when the heart and tongue do not converse; times when the link is severed so that the heart bears the weight of emotion unrelieved while speech lies  in the bond of helpless silence.

But in the silence, God hears all the words we long to say. Somehow He makes the translation complete. Sometimes He even uses the voice of a fellow believer to speak words that resonate. At times like this, all I can do yield in silent assent and whisper,

“Yes Lord. These are the words I would say to You… if I only knew how.”

Such is the case with me now — this day. And so I borrow a prayer I heard only this morning; the words of Ligon Duncan: a prayer at the opening of the Word before the congregation.

“Our Lord and our God, it is impossible for us to express with our lips how much we need You. How much we need the Gospel. How much we need Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For though we are gathered this morning, to give You the glory due Your Name, though we have been drawn out of this world and its deep, moral darkness and into Your wonderful light — Your marvelous light — because we now treasure the Savior more than anything we want to give Him all the praise and all the glory. Yet, because we continue to live in this fallen world, with all its dark providences and with all the consequences of sin, sometimes our hearts are so weighed down that we don’t think we can put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes the heartbreaks of the people of God are so deep that we cannot see the stars in the sky–certainly not the sun or the moon. There are travails of our souls and experiences of life that are so great, so weighty, so bruising that they pierce our very souls and press us to the brink of hopelessness and despair. It is some comfort to us to know that that’s where the people of God were at the beginning of Isaiah 50. Some comfort for us to know that that’s where Elijah was; that even the hour of his greatest victory, his heart was afraid of death as an evil tyrant wanted to strike out at him in vengeance and all he could say to God is, ‘I’m the only one left! You’ve abandoned me!’ And there You were to say unto him, ‘Elijah, there are seven thousand who haven’t bowed the knees to Baal.’ There You were to say to him, ‘Elijah, the One that watches over Israel, the One that watches over this fickle, rebellious people and their tyrannical rulers never slumbers and never sleeps. And Elijah, I didn’t appoint you to watch over Israel. I watch over Israel Myself and I watch over you too. I haven’t asked you to be their savior. I haven’t asked you to be their day’s man. I haven’t asked you to be the servant who avails for them. No. I’ll, I’ll send Someone better, I’ll send Someone greater to be their day’s Man; I’ll send My Son. And He’ll never fail them and He’ll never fail Me and He’ll always hear My voice. And He’ll be abandoned for them so that they’ll know that they’re never abandoned and He’ll be forsaken for them so that they know that they’ll never be forsaken.  And it’s His voice that will speak into their ears and deep into their hearts when all other lights have gone out. And HE’LL give them hope. And HE’LL give them strength. And HE’LL give them courage. Because that Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth.’

And oh Lord, we need to hear that Voice today. We need to hear the Voice of Jesus in our ears, the Voice of the Suffering Servant because the things that we face, they would undo us if we face them in our own strength. And we do confess that we have been undone by them and we would have fallen to the ground were Your hand not there holding us up. The only reason we’re here today–it’s not because of our faithfulness, it’s not because of our love; it’s because of Your faithfulness and Your love. Lord God give us ears to hear this Gospel truth as Your servant brings the truth from Romans 8 today! Because we can’t even hear THAT if You don’t help us by Your Spirit. So that’s what we beg; we beg for just one brief hour, for Your Spirit to open our ears and open our hearts and to hear what You have got to say to us…

And then we see the Savior in all His glory. And we say, ‘Just, just give Him to me. And take everything else; just give Him to me.’ And then, we find rest.


Lord we pray this prayer in Jesus Name. Amen.”


Ligon Duncan, opening prayer

First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS

Dr. Derek Thomas

“No Separation ”