Part 4: The Gift of Shutting Up
When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. … And when you pray, do not keep on babbling…
– Jesus, Matthew 6.6-8
Peace is like silence. Silence is not something we can create; we just shut up and it’s there. When we just shut up and make room for it, Peace is there! It’s not something that can be created or manipulated. And this is possibly the best definition of prayer that I am able to muster: Creation intertwining with Something uncreateable.
When we practice and learn to silence ourselves, or at least practice and learn to stop giving ourselves all of our attention for the sake of God’s kingdom within us, we are freed from being subject to the chaotic multiplicity of our minds. Now, there is subtly in that statement: we’re not exactly freed from our chaotic minds, but we are freed from being helplessly enslaved to their chaos. We become able to objectify the impermanent thoughts and feelings because we’ve learned their insignificance in the Light of Permanence.
Breaking away from contemporary discursive prayer habits is only step one; relinquishing our submission to wandering interests and preferences is the next (HUGE) step in prayer. If we only let go of the familiar way of doing things, although the freedom from that can be liberating, it ultimately only leaves us with an absence; and we are made for Presence. The "hugeness" of this next step in prayer has to do with how it requires us to deny ourselves. This has never been a popular part of Jesus' message, but it has always been central.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17:33
The denial of self is not just some moralistic denial of habits or impulses, but a letting go of identity and the way we identify ourselves. It is humility. Too often, religion is perverted into being a way to preserve ourselves or the way we see things. It is pride disguised as humility. Because of this, many are losing the life and life more abundantly that Jesus brings. We need to learn to quiet the self-interests and self-centeredness of our minds.
A regular and perseverant practice of Silent Prayer sows humility into our chaotic minds which otherwise drift endlessly from self-interest to self-interest. While practicing Silent Prayer a strong emotion, idea, or impulse will arise from time to time. It is incredibly enticing! Outside of Silent Prayer we’d normally latch ourselves on to the self-interest and be dragged wherever it goes. The condition of our lives and relationships are at the mercy of this involuntary and subconscious lifestyle. But a practice of Silent Prayer allows room for us to begin first observing self-interest arrive, remember our attention and intention is being saved for the simplicity of God’s abiding presence within us, and then let it slip away like a breath that just comes and goes without a second thought. Suddenly, the roots of Permanence start expanding into our lives and into the weak areas where the impermanence of emotions, circumstances, opinions, and preferences have dwelled in unconscious darkness.
Practicing Silent Prayer is like losing a bit of our life and the way we've understood it to look. It is not easy, until we see how we've attached to a life and the way things look (impermanence) rather than the presence of Christ within us (Permanence).
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
– Jesus, Matthew 10:39