So what is prayer? There’s praise, intercessory and thankfulness? There’s the connecting-with-God type of prayer? Both, right? But the connecting-with-God folks tend to be a bit prideful, maybe, just suggesting…..that’s big thing to try to do, to try to listen for God. Yet there are times when I do feel that God is right here with me. So the whole prayer thing — something I’ve done always — suddenly all sorts of questions! And don’t start with me about the “sometimes God says ‘no’ or ‘not now’ answers to prayers”. That’s so pat. That’s so easy. That makes God out to me a big bully — sorry, nope your loved one dies despite all your prayers; nope you suffer from that illness; no, no, no. Don’t get me wrong, I get that God gets it. I understand that God’s ways might be miles above my pay grade. But I don’t like easy answers to suffering. I’d rather just have a mystery.
God’s not magic to solve everything.
Anyway, in reading Psalms, reading about prayer — all sorts of questions. For my class I wrote this:
Silence. Silence in prayer is where we are listening. Perhaps something tangled will become clear. Perhaps something too terrible for words can be shared with God. Perhaps it is just for us, resting in acceptance of both God’s love and God’s mystery. Last night’s lecture was on intercessory prayer, but the communion-with-God prayer is what is harder. It is easy to say “God bless….” and it is easy to say “Thank you God for….” Just being in silence, waiting, listening, hoping, trusting — this is harder and (I think) needs a willingness to listen to yourself, a willingness to know yourself that can be very daunting indeed. I’ve very much enjoyed “centering prayer” in different moments of my life, it is with a bit of surprise to realize that I have not done that for a while, a good while. Our pastor spoke recently of different types of silence: being silenced; being voiceless; being in silence; responding with silence. Silence is not of itself a good thing; context is all. God’s silence might be a type of suffering, of sorrow that we’re in pain and sadness.
And that takes us back to Elijah’s “still small voice” or the sound of sheer silence that he heard in the cave on the mountain. He didn’t act as if he had a revelation — he said immediately afterward exactly the same words to God. I wonder if he looked back later and thought about it and was awed. After all, if Elijah hadn’t told the story, we wouldn’t know the story. Sometimes things take time and a good night sleep and some bread and cheese.
What do you think?