I AM PART of a network of Christians in Philadelphia who come together regularly to practice contemplative prayer. As part of our practice, our group moves into silence with a simple chant of “Be still and know that I am God.” Especially when repeated quietly with gentle breathing, I find in those words a beautiful invitation—to stillness, to knowing, to being.
The phrase comes from the Book of Psalms and can function as a touchstone of living a grounded spiritual life, a common theme for many journeying on the path of contemplation. But I recently had a startling experience of those very words.
Our church, a Mennonite congregation, has an annual Peace and Justice Sunday, connecting our call to discipleship with liturgy and worship. This year one of the texts was Psalm 46, with its many familiar and moving lines and images. What made it appropriate for this service was its evocation of the God of peace responding to the military madness of the nations: ceasing wars, breaking the bow, shattering the spear, burning the chariot—a full-fledged divine disarming of the raging nations.
And then, verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
As familiar as much of that psalm is, never had I seen this startling truth: This divine call to stillness is part of a psalm praising and exalting God for bringing an end to war.