Posts tagged silent prayer
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