“Among the important lessons that the spiritual giants can teach us, and on which they have striking agreement, is that we are not likely to experience reality in prayer unless we practice a great deal of silent waiting. Far from prayer being a matter of words, it is often, at its best, freedom from words, since our own chatter can prevent our listening. Important as it may be for us to express our deepest desires to God, much as a little child expresses his desires to his earthly father, it is even more important to be truly receptive in order to learn what the Divine Father is trying to say to us. This is because, though we already know what we want, we do not know what God wants.” (Elton Trueblood. The New Man for Our Time. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970, p. 73.)
If the spiritual life is received and not achieved, which I believe it is, prayer, fundamentally, becomes not so much about what we say as it is what we hear. If we think prayer is our attempt to get God’s attention we won’t’ pray unless we need something. It’s not about us getting God’s attention but about training our hearts to pay attention to God. It’s an orientation of the soul to the on-going, creative activity of God in our lives. Too often we enter into prayer without much thought to what God thinks. Listening, I believe, is one of the most basic stances of the spiritual life.
Yet, the idea of being quietly alone, is unnerving for most Americans, even Christians. We thrive on perpetual noise, packed schedules, and frenzied activity. Distraction is the M.O. of our day. To sit quietly enough and long enough to hear God speak is not easy and to become comfortable with silence comes incrementally, with practice over time. Yet, it is in silence we habitually release our own agendas and we open ourselves to what God wants to give and way he wants to reveal himself to us. Basically, we are creating space for the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do.
Starting is the hardest part…why not take a few minutes to sit quietly and focus your heart on the voice of God who speaks in the quietness of our hearts.