What is Silent Prayer?
The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or "There!" for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
– Jesus, Luke 17:20&21
Lately, it seems like I've been having a lot of conversations about Silent Prayer and what it is. I've heard so many people saying they are feeling drawn to silence in prayer. It is incredibly inspiring!
This clear statement from Jesus (above) is at the core of what Silent Prayer is all about.
Much of what we're taught about prayer is centered on things external: circumstances, self-expression, articulation, et cetera. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it is the lesser of these two good things.
The story of Martha and Mary gives a wonderful depiction of this: Martha is doing a good work of preparing meals and rooms for her guests (including Jesus), while Mary is sitting at Jesus' side, being wholly present to Him. Martha speaks to Jesus about her circumstances and need for help in order to get them done (sound like a lot fo your prayers?). Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”
Here is a quick snapshot of what Silent Prayer means to me:
- Stillness. "Be still and know I am God." – Psalm 46
- Time. Committing myself to this stillness for longer than it is only emotionally stimulating immediately reduces the level of self-centeredness. Years ago, I started with only 20min.
- Attention & Intention. I give both of these major components of my identity completely over to God by silently and slowly repeating a passage of Scripture or simply Jesus' name. This slows down the hectic regular pace of my thoughts and creates room for Presence.
- Acceptance. One of the most challenging and yet powerful aspects of this practice is releasing all of my expectations. The expectations I put on myself, my experience, God, and the results of my time. No matter the level of distraction or focus, I accept my experience and trust God, wholly.
- Love. Every true spiritual practice draws out of us a greater love for God and everyone around us. This is where stillness paradoxically meets action.
That is a very brief summary of a huge topic. If you try it and find that you're overwhelmed by how scattered and chaotic your thoughts are, don't be discouraged! If we're not "good" at silent prayer, that's the point! :n)