We live a noisy world. Whether it’s the alerts of non-stop social media, the ring of kids whining, or the grind of stress at work, life produces noise. A 24-hour a day sort of noise.
God wants to relieve us of the burdens of noise, and give us a gift: the gift of a quiet spirit, a heart at rest. I’ve found that time spent in silence is the way He cultivates that gift. It is the consistent practice of being still, (literally) and experiencing the truth that He is God.
Being still, and silient is not easy in our culture. But if we practice it, silence will become a life-giving sanctuary and a way to find peace even in the chaos of our world.
When I first started practicing slience, being quiet and still for more than two minutes was a mind-blowing feat. But now, after years of “practicing silence” I cherish it and find it to be an irreplaceable part of my daily routine.
I practice silence, not because I am admirable, disciplined or super-spirutual, but because I want awareness of God. Deep connection to God is what we were made for and the noisy pace of our world distracts from such a connection.
Practicing silence is the most wonderful gift I can give myself, my family and above all, it is an offering of worship to God. Silence marks the space where my heart unfolds before a knowing God, and has become the place where I can be my most real self with Him.
Giving ourselves space to be still and honest with God is the key to true transformation.
It happens mostly in the form of examen prayer, in the mornings before my day gets loud and bouncy and filled with squeals, whines, and to-do lists.
Below I detail, in my own words, the ancient format of listening prayer first expressed by St. Ignatius in hopes that it will give you some ideas to incorporate into your own daily routine.
1. (Become aware of God’s presence) After I do some stretching and maybe a few jumping jacks to wake myself up, I grab my coffee and settle down into a cozy nook in my kitchen. I begin my time of prayer/relflection with silence. I take deep breaths and ask the Holy Spirit to make my heart aware of His presence. Sometimes in this period of “awareness” I listen to reflective worship music. This gets the eyes of my heart off myself and my issues and onto the One who is worthy of my attention and praise. I put my headphones on, so not to wake the kids, and just sit quietly, allowing my heart to become aware of God’s presence.
2. (Review the day with gratitude) It’s so easy to immediately begin our prayers with our needs, requests or problems. I have found that gratitude aligns my heart with His, so I like to start my prayers with thanks. I thank Him for who He is, and for the ways I’ve seen Him at work in my life, in my relationships, in my world in the previous day(s).
3. (Pay attention to your emotions) Then I normally turn off the music and listen. I listen to my heart and emotions as they open with honesty to God. I listen for how the Spirit of God speaks to my emotions, and addresses my feelings with His truth.
I am asking the One Who Sees, “How is my soul, really?” I open myself for Him to search me and know me, my anxious thoughts, fears, and worries. I think back to the day before and reflect on what my emotions in my friendships, my responses to my kids, my thoughts on body image, my reactions within my marriage, insecurities about my calling. I am asking the Spirit to help me see Him at work in all the things I did and felt from the past day. What are those things able to tell me about my need for God? About His work in me? About my resistance? About my need for breakthrough? About areas I need to repent and ways I need to turn my heart and actions back to God?
4. (Choose one feature from the day and pray through it) I begin writing in my journal my response to that time of listening. Usually my writing begins with thanks, and as my heart unfolds, I may hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Sometimes His voice comes through Scripture that stands out as if it were highlighted yellow. Sometimes He speaks through a picture in my mind that correlates to my life. Sometimes I don’t hear anything at all. Just silence. And that is ok, because by faith, I believe that He is near. I also study the Bible in this time. Usually it’s only 2-3 verses. I desire to go deep, not wide, so sometimes less is more.
5. (Look toward tomorrow) I sit quietly again and reflect. I look back at what I wrote, at what I read, at what I felt. I want to remember what He spoke- and treat it as a treasure in my heart as I enter my day. I look to the day ahead and ask for His covering, leading, blessing in specific places on specific people.
Do I get through that whole process without interruption? Rarely?
Is any time spent in silence life to my bones, breath to my soul? Yes, every time.
I discovered this method of prayer over the years through several books I read that emphasize the importance of prayerful silence and reflection. This website gives helpful insight on such prayer.