HomedotMagisReflectionsSilent Prayer in Advent

Silent Prayer in Advent

starry night with young man pondering in silence

Many Advent hymns feature the idea of silence: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent,” or, “My Soul in Stillness Waits.” And then there is the beloved Christmas carol, “Silent Night.” Yet in our culture, silence can be hard to come by. We are often busy with work, holiday preparations for meals, shopping for gifts, and then attending holiday parties—perhaps with a considerable amount of travel mixed in. Even when we have available time, we may not know how to be in silence for long. Yet silent prayer—in which we do not actively try to make a lot “happen” in prayer with words or images—can be a valuable way to rest in God’s presence and prepare for the arrival of Christ.

There are different kinds of silence that we can experience in prayer:

  • silence that waits patiently and expectantly for a word to arrive, in answer to a question or longing of the heart.
  • silence that we can “fall into,” one that holds us, like a child resting on its mother’s lap (Psalm 131:2).
  • silence that feels pregnant, as though some kind of a secret is already hidden in the silence, just waiting to be born.

Sometimes there is an impatience with silence, an unsettled desire for more, and a seeking that is akin to thirst and restless.

The Gospels offer us different models of silence: Zechariah who is temporarily mute (Luke 1:22), and Mary who ponders silently after the angel’s greeting (Luke 1:29) and the message of the shepherds (Luke 2:19). There is the silence of the magi, who choose not to return to Herod to tell him where the child is; they go another way (Matthew 2:12). Joseph dreams and acts and is a strong presence to Mary and Jesus, but a silent one. Jesus grows into adulthood, taking times for silence in solitude (Mark 1:35).

Although there are many methods for silent prayer, there is no one “right way” to pray in silence. Prayer is not about a method, but rather about relationship. All that prayer requires is placing ourselves in the presence of God with an open heart. God will do the rest. God comes to be with us: Emmanuel.

Marina Berzins McCoy
Marina Berzins McCoy
Marina Berzins McCoy is a professor at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service-learning program. She is the author of The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness and Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy. She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.


  1. Thank you for this. I’m always chattering away in my prayers. Noisy. It’s comforting to know that I can be silent and just listen.

  2. This is especially meaningful to me today as I read the words about silence. The message that comes to me is to “be still and know that I am God”.

  3. My family is experiencing crisis right now and I trust that God will bring all these trials into alignment with His Holy will. I give them to your care Dear Lord.

  4. Marina,

    I needed to read your entry today. Thank you for reminding me that there is “no right way” to pray in silence. It gives me the incentive to just be with God in the quiet and be open to the gift of His peaceful presence.

    Advent blessings to you,



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Marina Berzins McCoy
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