How I’m Learning to Pray by Talking Less

“Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.”

The older I get the more I know this to be true. There is something to be said for silence–for drowning out the noise with wonder and gratitude and wordlessness. Shutting down this internal conversation for me is no small feat. As a writer all I do is narrate what is happening around me. I have practiced this since I was a child. This month I’m approaching the last year of my twenties. I’ve been thinking about the next phase of my life quite a lot. And I realize I need a lot less chatter, clutter, talking, nonsense. I need less comparisons. Less rushes to judgement. Less vanity. Less self. Less me.

Mother Teresa put it this way,

“In the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

But I’ll be honest, I have this fear inside me:  That if I tune it all out and if I get quiet, I will miss out. I will become less driven and less inclined to reach my goals. I fear the silence will make me lazy. This is the serpent with the apple in my garden. He urges me to partake in the growing multitude of voices pushing and fighting and screaming for attention. And let’s be honest, I am inclined toward that path. But I am telling myself over and over that the quiet soul is the trusting soul. The soul that chooses not to harbor anger and resentment or grow in discontent finds peace. And more than anything I think I just need to be where God is. Where he speaks, where he dwells. And from what I have learned, He is not in the noise. 

The loudest voices are not the wisest voices. Wise people listen to the whisper that urges, “Be still and know.” I have never been good at prayer. Never. Even though I’ve been a Christian since I was a child. I have never really learned to pray. And I think it is mostly because I have put too many words into my prayers. Instead of coming silently before God and offering a malleable heart, I have tried to entreat him with my words. I prayed for an audience that was not listening. It never occurred to me until recently that maybe my silence is more valuable than my words. Maybe my affection and emotions and hopes are best communicated through wordless acts. Because really don’t words diminish all those things anyway?

This year one of my goals was to learn to pray. I’ll be honest, it was also my goal for 2013 and 2014. I’ve always wrestled with consistency and time. Sitting and stirring words aimed at the creator has been a painful task. But maybe Anne Lamott was on to something when she wrote her book Help, Thanks, WowMaybe those are the three essential prayers. And maybe all the rest is just noise.

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