“Among the important lessons that the spiritual giants can teach us, and on which they have striking agreement, is that we are not likely to experience reality in prayer unless we practice a great deal of silent waiting. Far from prayer being a matter of words, it is often, at its best, freedom from words, since our own chatter can prevent our listening. Important as it may be for us to express our deepest desires to God, much as a little child expresses his desires to his earthly father, it is even more important to be truly receptive in order to learn what the Divine Father is trying to say to us. This is because, though we already know what we want, we do not know what God wants.” (Elton Trueblood. The New Man for Our Time. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970, p. 73.)
Even as more and more Evangelicals are recognizing the need for silence with God in prayer, there seem to be few for whom this has actually become a practice.
The pace and idea-intensity with which we teach and lead tends to train people to be comfortable with large amounts of unpracticed insight.
Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Mt 6:7-8 TNIV).” I fear that many of us pray with the implicit assumption that we need to inform God of our needs and wants, rather than praying with explicit confidence that He already knows us, cares deeply for us, and has our actual best in mind.
Are our prayers more effective based on the number of paragraphs they contain? Do we assume that more intensive prayer necessarily involves saying more words to God? Some of my most critical moments in prayer have not been when I was saying something to God, but when God was saying something to me. And those moments have come in the midst of unhurried time alone and quiet before God, giving Him my humble, loving attention.
In my journey, I realize that it is the practice of silence and solitude that has awakened and focused me on the reality of God’s presence with me and in me. Apart from these simplifying practices, a lot of my praying ends up on auto-pilot.
- How are you sensing God inviting you to actually create times in your day, week or month to be alone and quiet with Him?
- When do you want to do this? Where will you go?
- Who will you tell so they can encourage you and hear your stories later on?