For years I’ve been trying to master the art of silent prayer. Sometimes my attempts find me staring at my shoes, thinking about the work I need to be doing. Other times, when I approach prayer with an open heart, I can feel my life, attitude, and perspective changing with every second I keep my eyes closed.
Silence is difficult. It’s confusing. What, exactly, is supposed to happen while sitting for long, potentially awkward periods of time? I’m still not confident about my answer, but I can share some of my experiences.
Enough Is Enough
First, every time I enter into silent prayer it takes quite a while to get situated. I’m thinking about the endless number of tasks that need to be done at my job and my apartment. Moreover, I have special projects, blog posts, videos, and, most importantly, people I need to connect with throughout the day. My mind never shuts off, unless I put my foot down and say, Enough is enough. Entering into silent prayer takes work. It takes discipline and courage to cut through all the little things that distract our minds and hearts to arrive at a sacred and productive silence.
I have some good days and I have some terrible days when I attempt to enter into silent prayer. However, the more I try, the better I get.
I Am Not in Charge
When I’m at my best in silent prayer, I get an overwhelming feeling that I am not in charge. While that sounds cliché, it seems to me that this simple mindset is the remedy to my stress, heartache, and anxiety. Day to day I get tricked into believing that my daily tasks, obstacles, and struggles are bigger than they are. Some days I even feel cheated that people don’t recognize them or validate them, but my prayer puts things into the proper perspective. I get a profound sense that God is in charge and that life is mysterious. And no matter what struggles come my way, God has a way to redeem them. I like to think that I trust God, but silence helps me to live that trust.
God isn’t some “thing” we can quantify; God is mystery. Silence is one of the most profound ways to dive deeper into the mystery that is God. I’ve grown to appreciate this idea through St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. For 30 weeks I was asked to sit in silence for one hour a day while using my imagination to contemplate the Scriptures. I was hesitant at first, but it made sense that if God worked through all things (a very basic and popular Ignatian concept), God certainly worked through my imagination.
It was then that I realized the true beauty of silent prayer. Every week I was given a set of Bible verses to contemplate. More than that, I was asked to imagine myself within the Bible stories. It was there that I “met” God for the first time. He revealed himself to me in a number of creative ways that made me seek God more, ways that fueled my desire to know God more deeply.
Ironically, my silent prayer was incredibly loud, interactive, and engaging. It was also emotional and intimate. The silence allowed God to speak to my heart in mysterious ways. Through those 30 weeks of the Spiritual Exercises, I interacted with God in ways that I never thought possible. We shared intimate moments and furthered our relationship. In my Scripture contemplations, Jesus treated me as one of his disciples and entrusted me with tasks to further his mission. He trusted me. He embraced me. He stuck up for me. He loved me. The silence was a sacred space for me to be with Jesus.
For me, this is the power of silent prayer: it creates a deeper relationship with an infinite and mysterious God. It takes us down a path that ultimately leads to a deep friendship.
Today in 31 Days with St. Ignatius, read A Lesson in Human Dignity at a Paris Bistro.
Silently amazing words… God bless from your fellow Filipino here.
This was so helpful to me! I’m so thankful to have run across it. It answered some big questions I have.
Meant to ask…can the dark one hear our silent prayers?
I done & do silent prayers, sometimes I think I’m being selfish or self-centered but in the long run I learned to love my enemies (hater)& pray over them wish is the harder part of prayers & I’m still working on that. Now that I know that silent prayers is effective I will continue in silence prayers 🙏😇 Can I get a Amen? God bless us all.
It is difficult learning to be still and silent in God’s Presence. I learnt how to do this be practising the ‘centering prayer’ about 15 years ago. And now I fall more easily into intimacy with God. He is my invisible best friend. I talk to Him often during the day as I go about my business, and make special time to give Him my undivided attention every afternoon. Growing in ever deepening friendship with God is wonderful and worth the persistence.
Thank you for this post. In a few days I’m meeting with a young woman who is a busy executive, wife, mother of two little girls and one who tries to make time for prayer. I will be bringing this article to her attention and suggesting even a few minutes of silence can be very powerful.
I have learned that, for me, he best way to end the distraction of so many things is found in writing them down. I always try to have paper and a writing tool with me when I begin my prayer time. I view these lists of need to do, want to do, like to do, as part of my work and part of my prayer. It is only then that I can open myself to divine silence. Sometimes, I begin my prayer period, at other times the Holy Spirit guides me, and sometimes I just sit in the stillness. It is much like sitting with my wife of almost 40 years. Love grows in silence, and in silence we find love.
When struggling with interior noise I remind myself of Christ’s reply to Martha, ” Martha, Martha you are anxious and troubled by many things, but only one thing is needed and Mary has CHOSEN the better part, AND IT SHALL NOT BE TAKEN FROM HER!! It seems any time I remember this passage He hastens to my rescue and gives me the Grace to receive that profound silence that is so filled with His Presence.
sometimes we think we what we need is unattainable, we have alot of goals to achieve, but the best of all is to achieve a sound relationship with our Saviour, that s why i need a silent prayer, thanks so much God for this website. may God bless you all.
I too am trying myself into the practice of having a sacred space in my own pacing, silence is truly a mystery for me, when I feel getting hard attuning my self to Him I just concentrate that truly He is a mystery, from then communication with Him become possible
I could like to share with you the spirit of silent prayer which I would adapt through the holy scripture by contemplating it and further the mission which I was entrusted by Christ as a catechist.
This morning I sense gratitude arising in me. I exist in a web of relationships all of which allows life to flow towards me through me
This morning I have a great sense of my sin. It is very raw and has the potential to weigh me down. But in that awareness I have a sense of rising uplift.
I am in presence of God. I have the mustard seed in me. It has grown, but there are weeds around it.
The journey is still there
When I begin my prayer this morning I come from a busy background. I am leeting go of my thoughts. Then another dimension appears. it is in this dimsension I can be intimate. I describe my fears
My insight this morning is that at the heart of prayer is intimacy. Intimacy takes time and silence. Generally speaking I find intimacy very challenging. I don’t trust enough to let somebody near.I am insecure.
But I find that I can begin the journey of intimacy in prayer.There is more than one present.
Jurrell, I read your post on SacredSpace and share your feelings about silence, her teachings, and the incredible feeling you have,I can’t even name it, when you realize that Jesus is trusting you with a mission. That you have a mission that only you can do! I found this so comforting for two reasons: first, I have many trust problems.58 years of many broken trusts. Second,that I have a mission! A reason for being. Take both together and that brought me life.
I, too, am praying the Spiritual Exercises and have found my “hour of silence” something of another mystery. How can so much be revealed in that hour? Why ME? Why do I get to harvest all this love that comes my way? I still don’t know the answers but I do know that God has provided an abundant blessing for me.
I visit Sacred Space every day.
A lot of people say Silence is difficult. I hear that but I don’t find it so.
Maybe it is because I have quieted my mind. By that I mean I have received the grace to accept the the thoughts that come into my mind, and letting them go as they come.That takes time. It is my ego that originates the thoughts. They could very well be classified as ‘good’, remembering the tasks that I have to do, the prayers to say. But I see the grace in my observing that they are a distraction from my basic intent to go inward to meet the oncoming God.
When and if that happens it is a moment of Silence
Truth and trust –so central to the message of God. So where you sit to hear God speak becomes so important. For me,messages received in the Tabernacle of life are those which I learn and pass along to others.
“God is in charge and life is mysterious. And no matter what struggles come my way, God has a way to redeem them ” … beautiful thought to help ‘just BE’!
Thank you for such a thought-provoking piece. As I write, I am sitting on a small island listening to the sheer silence of the night. I find it so consoling and so easy to converse with God in this space. Your article provides an opportunity to explore silence. I admit it is so easy to pray here in such a relaxing place. Unfortunately I get very frustrated when I sit in my parish church at home in front of the Tabernacle and try to experience the same silence. The movements, coughing, whispering and general noise really disturb me. You write about sitting in silent prayer. I would dearly love to learn to experience silent prayer in the midst of normal life and avoid feeling so agitated.
Perhaps a good approach to take that might be of help is no longer to see these “distractions” as such. Befriending them and considering them as normal aspects of life and having a friendly attitude towards them would make them less disturbing. The man coughing, the baby crying, feet shuffling, the rooster crowing, the frogs croacking, even the internal dialogues that go on in our mind etc are all part and parcle of daily life. They could all become vehicles for silent meditation with an attitude of acceptance.
That said, it still has to be said that external silence is a big help to internal silence and when it is possible, looking for the least noisy part of the day to do the silent meditation is always preferable.
I love the notion, enough is enough. It’s so hard to get off the carousel!