The value of intentional silence
I read an article a few years back talking about how very little time we have without interruption. One interviewee re-ported that the last time she had just to herself, in silence, with her own thoughts, was in the waiting room at a doctor’s office when her cellphone battery died… several months prior.
Yet to take quiet time is crucial! Even more, to take quiet time with God is crucial!
When the prophet Elijah was told by God to listen for His voice, Elijah didn’t hear it in the pounding rain, the wailing wind, or the firestorm… but as a quiet whisper in the silence.
Admittedly, sometimes we can be intimidated by quiet time with God. I was once leading a short Lectio Divina at a prior parish, and after 5 min. of quiet reflection, I asked for any promptings or insights. One 38 yr. old mother said, “I hated that.” We were a little taken aback, but she went on to say that she didn’t know what to do, so she sat there beat-ing myself for not knowing how to pray in quiet. (Word to the wise… don’t beat yourself up.)
But it can be an incredible experience as well! Another young man, mid-twenties, who was growing his career as a Christian musical artist and regularly played at Mass and youth events, was requested to attend a weekend silent re-treat… he was intimidated, but came back saying “Silence is my new favorite thing!” He had really heard God speak to him personally when he put down the guitar and entered into it.
So many saints have spoken to this, saying that while God speaks to us in many ways, his primary language (where we experience Him most personally) is in quiet prayer.
How to get started? A few tips from St. Teresa of Avila (the patron saint of late starts):
- Start by asking the Holy Spirit for the gift of prayer.
- Bring a good spiritual reading book (the best is Sacred Scripture)
- Read, but only until something grabs your attention, and then put it down and talk to God about it. You have one mouth and two ears… be sure to use them in that ratio with God!
This can be done for 5 min., 15 min., for an hour… and it can be awkward at first, but as Mother Teresa once said: “The best way to learn how to pray is to start praying.”