Silence and Prayer

There are few things I need more than I need silence.  I think it’s because I’m not good at being quiet on the inside if there’s activity and noise going on around me.  Without that interior silence, my prayer life suffers.  When I was younger, I’d notice how hard it was to pray at times, but I didn’t really connect my struggles with a lack of silence.  When you’re young you tend to push through things, or at least I did.  My favorite problem-solving technique was full-speed ahead until I moved past obstacles by brute force.  As I grew in age and maturity, I realized this probably wasn’t always the best method to employ.  Especially in matters of faith, it helps to slow down, to listen, and to invite reflection.

But finding silence and time is a difficult thing to do.  Sometimes I’d feel like I was chasing a dry leaf across the grass as it’s blown and tumbled by the wind, always just out of my grasping hands.  Grasping.  And that’s what it feels like, trying to grab some time and some quiet as it tumbles away from me.  But silence is like happiness: the harder you run after it, the more it slips away from you.  You have to make a home for silence.  Only when you stop trying to grasp a few minutes of peace and quiet and instead actively create it in you day, will you find it.

My prayer life was transformed when I began to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  This is the ancient prayer of the Church which marks the hours of each day.  Mainly consisting of Psalms, hymns, Scripture, and other holy writings, the Hours (along with the Mass) compose the public prayer of the Church.  Priests and deacons pray the LOTH as part of their vocation, but lay people are also encouraged to incorporate it into their daily prayers, too.

I pray them because it helps me to sanctify my time to the Lord.  I’m not going to say that I always pray each one of the seven groups of prayers through the day and night.  I don’t.  But I try to.  It teaches me to humbly put myself in adoration of God.  The LOTH connects me to the rest of the Church as we all pray the same words, around the world.  It’s been described as “the voice of the Bride to the Bridegroom” and I think that’s both an accurate and a beautiful description.  It helps me to pray at a deeper level than I’d pray “on my own.”  Sometimes my spontaneous prayers focus too much on my feelings and while feelings are important, they don’t define my relationship with God.  I pray with my intellect and my will, as well—praying when I don’t feel like it, when I can’t find the words to pray, and when I don’t think I need to pray at all.  These prayers draw me out of myself and into a place where I can forget my own words and begin to hear the voice of God.  Praying the Psalms does this especially well for me.

Jesus would have prayed the Psalms several times a day, as a Jew.  The earliest Christians, many of whom were converts from Judaism, would have also followed this practice.  So the LOTH help me follow this ancient practice of “praying without ceasing”( I Thessalonians 5:16).  When I pray the Hours, I feel a strong connection to the disciples and to Jesus Himself.  In my mouth are the same words He used when talking with the Father.  I’m reminded that my prayer life isn’t all about me, after all.  I need that reminder.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours guarantees that I’ll include times of silence and reflection in my day.  Rather than just hoping I’ll squeeze in a few moments of prayer in the morning and at bedtime, the Hours carve out little invitations throughout the day and night.  I use an app on my mobile phone which means I won’t forget and all the readings for each day are conveniently gathered in one place for me.  I need the discipline that the Hours give me in deepening and increasing my prayer life.  I need to step off the hamster wheel a few times each day and silently pray and listen.  If this sounds like you, take a moment and explore the Liturgy of the Hours.  These are prayed by believers from many Christian traditions and may be just what you need to grow in your spiritual life.

Our greatest need is to be silent before this great God…”

               —-St. John of the Cross.


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