Posts in silent prayer
Everything is a spiritual practice...
...he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’
– Acts 17:27&28

One of the biggest first crisis' of faith I experienced was at the same age that nearly everyone has theirs. I was moving to Pasadena with friends and tired of limiting God's presence, meaning, or significance to church buildings. Either God was real and can be found everywhere or God is an idea and can only be found in certain buildings or people groups. I didn't see this type of faith being lived out or even really talked about in churches (although my Dad and I talked about it regularly over Sunday morning breakfasts, thank God) and it was the only thing that I was interested in.

Reading Brother Lawrence's small book The Practice of the Presence of God  when I was only 16 was what instigated this for me. It changed the whole direction of my life. Life is so doggedly inconsistent that if there is actually one thing which is consistent (God's presence), it must be worth all of my attention!

After 15 years of slowly growing and maturing in this perspective, I've learned that everything is a spiritual practice. Everything.

If Christ truly "is all and is in all," it leaves room for nothing else. Sitting, standing, talking, listening, walking, reading, writing, running, lying down, bathing, eating, observing, and resting are all moments when each of us are in the Presence of God. But what is our practice of It?

There are many areas of my life where my practice is distraction; to ignore Christ and Love and be centered around myself (self-centered) . It's what I do regularly and know best. There are other areas where I'm becoming more sensitive to Love and Life in all and through all. I've made it a practice to grow the number of these areas.

When we emphasize God's presence in one place or person or point in history, we simultaneously diminish his presences elsewhere. That, then, becomes our practice: worshiping one place or person or point in history. Everything is a spiritual practice: to participate or to ignore.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
– Colossians 3:11
There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
– 1 Corinthians 8:6
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 
– Ephesians 4:4-6
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:

  1. Stillness. "Be still and know I am God." – Psalm 46
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)

This fool.

Do not be overrighteous,
    neither be overwise—
    why destroy yourself?
Do not be overwicked,
    and do not be a fool—
    why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one
    and not let go of the other.
    Whoever respects God will avoid all extremes
.
Ecclesiastes 7:16-18

This is one of my favorite passages from Scripture though I've never heard a single sermon nor read even one article written about it. I suppose it could be a bit "dangerous" if looked at from a self-centered perspective, but it is an incredible insight of wisdom which really deserves a closer look.

My sweet new jammie-jams on Christmas Eve night 2012

When we take ourselves, or our opinions, or even our beliefs too seriously, we over identify with them instead of the task given to us: love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and, likewise, love your neighbor as yourself. Our opinions and beliefs define us when it should be the life they produce.

On the other hand, when we don't give ourselves thought and time for righteousness (which only means right-standing with God), we end up having no identity at all. People become nothing more to us than expendable supporting actors in our live-action dramedy, where we are the stars aimlessly following our impulses.

Both of these dispositions are self-centered and destructive. One uses the idea of God as a cosmic spotlight on themselves, while the other uses humanity as a prop in their one man show.

Silent prayer helps us to take our thoughts, opinions, and emotions less seriously by discovering what really is so serious about life.

Silent Prayer...

"When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like people think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them..." Jesus, Matthew 6:6-8

Silent prayer is how we cultivate sensitivity, receptivity, and a sincere consent to God's abiding love and presence.

When we don't stop talking or acting, our focus quickly becomes fundamentally (yet, innocently) self-centered because our prayer is driven by feelings, impressions, and desires and our ability to articulate them. This naturally veers our attention toward how we feel about God, what we want from God, or what we want God to change. Those aren't bad things, but they are each centered around ourselves (self-centered).

Letting silence be a prayer language is a way of learning to let God to be God as God is and you to be you as you are. It is consenting to a trust that God does not need to be or do anything more than He already is and is doing. And that He loves us as we are and not as we should be (to quote the great Brennan Manning). God is Good. God is Love. Does He need to prove it through our circumstances before we choose to just accept Him in the same way that He accepts us?

"...you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one." Jesus, Luke 10:41&42

Be Still and (then you'll) Know...

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image..."
2 Corinthians 3:18

The word contemplate literally means "to reflect." Sometimes, we can get caught up in believing that it is in our studying or theologizing about God that we are transformed into His image, but the reality is that it has a lot more to do with our being internally still.

The Lafayette Reservoir in December 2012.

It is when we are still that we are able to reflect God's abiding Love and Presence. Just like the reservoir in the picture to the left shows, as it calms into a stillness, the beauty above it and beyond it is reflected and expanded.

We need only to "be still and know that I am God," as the psalmist instructs in Psalm 46:10. And, I'm sorry to say, it really isn't enough to only do this only once a week or infrequently. Just like the sky is always expressing something different for the reservoir to reflect, so is God. His infinite and endlessly creative Love is ceaselessly finding new ways of expressing itself.

Without regular stillness, we operate out of reflections we had of God long ago but which become completely irrelevant to how He desires to express Himself to and through you today; Now. "Be still and (then you'll) know."