Saturday, June 26, 2010

How To Pray - Part 4 : Silent Prayer

There are two types of prayer. One is with words and the other is without words. Of the two I prefer the wordless.  I have found that the best way to pray is to say nothing. I seem to communicate better that way. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that God is able to communicate with me better when I keep the chatter down. I use words when necessary. I always end my time of prayer with a few minutes of words, but I prefer not employ that limited form of communication.

When instructing his disciples about prayer Jesus said, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." Prayer is not informing God of what he doesn't know or may have forgotten. It is not stroking the divine ego or reminding the Lord of his earthly responsibilities. Prayer is getting out of our own way and making room for God.

When I pray, I spend the majority of my time simply being present to God. When I am not praying, I am wrapped up in my own thoughts and concerns. When I am going about my daily activities, it is like I am in a trance. I am caught in the busyness of the personality program that I call me. As George Harrison sang: "All thru' the day I me mine, I me mine, I me mine. All thru' the night I me mine, I me mine, I me mine." During prayer I wake up from the trance.

Prayer is the time to turn off the "I Me Mine" solo and listen to God's tune. God's song is not difficult to hear. It is playing all the time in the background. All of life is God's song. Nature sings it. Humans move to it. It is the harmony of everything. Our problem is that we don't pay attention to it.

Most people have not paid attention to it for so long that they do not even notice it playing. It is like people are tone deaf. They have tuned out God's voice. Prayer is bringing God's background music to the foreground and allowing our miserable melodies to fade into the background.

I like to describe it as Presence. It is like when you are busy doing something and you become aware that someone has entered the room, but you haven't turned to greet them yet. Prayer is turning around to greet God, who has been here all the time. God is present everywhere always. We are just not conscious of his presence. Prayer is paying attention to the God whom we normally ignore.

When you pray, stop paying attention to your own thoughts and pay attention to God. God speaks in a still small voice, so you have to listen carefully. That means you have to stop listening to yourself. You can't stop your mind from thinking. I have tried that; it doesn't work. Your mind will keep spewing thoughts no matter how much you tell it to stop. It is best to let your mind babble, but just ignore the babblings. Move your attention from the inner dialogue and to God's silent presence.

It is that simple ... and that difficult. In the presence of God I am sane. My normal state of consciousness feels like a form of insanity in comparison. In silent prayer I wake up. I am conscious in a way that makes my normal waking state feel like sleep. I am mentally aware in a way that makes normal awareness feel like unconsciousness. This awareness of the all-consuming presence of God is the most profound form of prayer. 
Art is "Silent Prayer" by Lisa Gao, Oil on canvas

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