In this season of Lent, we offer this invitation: "Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (NRSV Joel 2:13) I believe prayer is the avenue by which we come to be present with God and learn of God's graciousness, mercy and love. And while it is not a requirement, I believe that peace and silence and stillness can greatly enhance our time of prayer. A quote from Mother Teresa:
The fruit of silence is prayer
The fruit of prayer is faith
The fruit of faith is love
The fruit of love is service
The fruit of service is peace.
My wife and I worked for a year at Koinonia, a Lutheran Church camp in New York State before we headed to seminary. One of the disciplines we had there at the camp was Taize' Prayer every morning and evening. This form of prayer is centered around a good 15 - 20 minutes of silence. At first, this drove me crazy. There was so much to do, and so little time, and here we are spending time in prayer? And during the first few weeks, that time of silence was filled with going through all the things in my mind that needed to get done. It was frustrating.
But over time, I came to appreciate that time. It became time for me to stop. Yes, there were many things on my mind, but that time became time to empty those things from my mind, place them before God and seek God's guidance for the day to come, and a sense of calm for a night of rest.
In his book, "Learning to Pray Again," Bishop Michael Rinehart writes this:
Silence is prayer. As a child, I often thought of prayer as talking with God. Even if we embrace this metaphor, if one is talking with another, shouldn't it be at least 50% listening? Furthermore, if the other with whom one is talking is God, shouldn't it be more like 60% or 70% listening? If you were getting golf coaching from Tiger Woods, would you spend most of your time talking or listening?
In his book On Becoming a Magical Mystical Bear, Matthew Fox points out that most of us learned to pray as children, in a formative stage of our lives when we were dependent on our parents for everything. For this reason our praying can turn into a litany of all the things that we want. We treat God like a celestial Santa Claus. Then, somewhere in adolescence we become arrested in our spiritual development. We never learned to pray as adults. What if we began renewing our prayer life with silence?
Let God speak. Listen. If you're stuck in your prayer life, then begin with silence. If listening is prayer, and if silence is prayer, then perhaps prayer is communion with God, not just talking. Go for a long walk. 30 minutes. Take no music or reading with you. Just walk. Notice your steps, your breathing. Look at the earth, the trees, the sky. Breathe it in. Let go. Let God be.
Peace. Be Still.
Psalm 46:10 - Be Still, and know that I am God.