This past Monday night, I finally took the steps necessary towards becoming an emotionally healthy individual...in others words, I started the eight week Emotionally Healthy Relationships course that Providence offers every fall (big step, I know). And right from the outset, one of the first things we did was partake in a Daily Office, that ancient art of practicing the presence of God. At the heart of the daily office is silence and stillness - an intentional attempt to slow down in the midst of life’s whirlwind. There we were, all 70+ of us, sitting in the same room, purposefully being quiet, purposefully being still, trying not to sneeze.
Honestly, over the past few years, I’ve come to love silence. And the act of doing it has me, in essence, rethinking prayer. Now, before I continue, let me put this disclaimer out there: Anything said from here on out may be something, or influenced by something, I’ve listened to or read at one one point or another. Or it very well could be my own thoughts (let’s be honest though, it’s most likely the former :). I would love to give credit where credit is due, but I’ve listened to and read so many different things lately that I can’t keep it all straight. So this is my very poor attempt to “footnote” the things I’m about to say.
Back to prayer. It’s been my experience that when people bow their heads in prayer (or keep their eyes open - you do you), they have this sense and anticipation that God is going to “show up” at some point. In other words, if we spend enough time in prayer, or wait long enough in prayer, God will eventually come around and we’ll finally be in His presence. I mean, after all, doesn’t the Scripture say, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46.10). It’s as if our praying beckons the presence of God.
But here’s what I would like for us to consider: When we pray, does the presence of God finally show up? Or is it us that “show up” and recognize that His presence was there all along? When, in our stillness of prayer, we finally experience the presence of God (or “know Him” as the Psalmist says), is it that He made Himself visible, or is it that we slowed down long enough to actually see Him? In one sense, the distinction seems trivial. But in another sense, I think it has huge implications for how we approach the act of praying.
This is where silence and stillness are so important and have revolutionized my “prayer life.” I’d argue that the more we practice silence and stillness before God, the more we recognize His presence, not only in ourselves, but in others and in His creation. And the more we recognize His presence, the more we see His love tangibly at work in each of our lives. Prayer becomes less about going to God to get something, and more about recognizing that what He’s given us, namely Himself, is already in our midst.
These days, when I bow my head in prayer, a good portion of my time is spent in silence. It’s in silence that I slow down long enough to recognize the presence of God in the midst of my crazy life. And in so doing, I realize that He was there all along. It was just me who finally noticed it.
So may you faithfully practice the art of silence and stillness. And may doing so give you a fresh realization that God’s presence is ever present.