Recently I had a conversation with my best friend about prayer. It went a little like this:
“How can people pray for a whole hour? What on earth do they have to say that whole time? I give thanks, pray for my friends and family and then I’m done. Does God really expect me to talk that whole time?”
Goodness gracious, no! Can you imagine?!?
It’d be like a bad date where one person nervously keeps babbling about nothing just to fill the silence. Don’t worry, God doesn’t get awkward in the stillness; in fact, He welcomes it!
Pretend you’re visiting a friend and every time you meet you speak for an hour straight, without letting your friend get a word in edgewise. You will never find out about the other person, their thoughts, feelings or even what they think about your problems. It would be a boring, one-way relationship that would quickly dissipate into thin air because you simply can’t have a “relationship” with one person, yourself.
In today’s world, where we pull out our phones, pretending to text to avoid an awkward silence in an elevator and leave the TV on just for background noise, silence is becoming more and more uncomfortable.
The reason why some people can pray for 1, 2, 3, hours is because they are not just talking during that time but instead, LISTENING! Trust me, this type of prayer is not easy or even comfortable at first. It takes practice.
Well, how do you practice?
Pick one day and allow yourself one minute of silence, then slowly add one minute each day until you’re up to seven minutes by the end of the week. Maybe you need to stay at the seven minute mark for a couple weeks or maybe you will find this type of prayer more comfortable than talking – it all depends on you. I remember countless times on my way to work purposefully turning off the radio and sitting in silence. At first it was only for a couple seconds, then it grew to minutes, until I could open my heart and my ears to Christ the entire 30 minute drive. So many times I got distracted or turned that radio back on, just to turn it off again and keep trying.
The conversation with my friend last week continued:
“How can people actually hear God speaking or know what God wants?! I’m definitely not on their level; they’re too intense and super holy. God just doesn’t speak to me like that.”
The funny part is, I realized God has been trying to speak to me like this my whole life! I’ve just had my music blasting too loud to hear His voice. I explained to my friend that maybe we won’t be able to hear His voice the first week or even the first year, but with practice we realize the sound of His voice and the peace He brings to us. I always try to remember that God recognizes our efforts, even if we don’t feel like we are advancing at all.
One of my favorites, Saint Pope John Paul II, wrote in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, “Man achieves the fullness of prayer not when he expresses himself, but when he lets God be most fully present in prayer.”
My challenge to you is to begin today with one minute of silence. Don’t do it when you’re at school or riding in the car with your friends, but instead in a quiet place with no distractions. Yes, it will be uncomfortable, but Christ is already in that quiet waiting to whisper in your ear if you’ll only take the earbuds out long enough to listen.