Engaging the Silence
Like many of you, our 24-7 Prayer Scotland team has been journeying through Lent along with Lectio 365, which is using Pete Greig’s book God On Mute as a basis for reflection. We are all finding it challenging, encouraging and helpful. So over these next few weeks we will be sharing our personal reflections and stories from this journey.
This week, Sam shares some of his personal wrestlings with silence.
“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” Mother Teresa
Sometimes I don’t pray when I say I will pray, should pray, or could pray. That might seem controversial to some – after all, this is the 24-7 Prayer blog – but it may be comforting to others who might feel like the only Christian out there who struggles with maintaining a regular practice of prayer. Our lack of praying is regularly diagnosed as a lack of discipline but I think it goes deeper than an inability to stick to routine.
Often, I ignore the place of prayer out of a deep sense of apprehension, sometimes even fear; a fear of what lurks beneath the surface of my soul. In stark contrast to a lot of our human interactions, when I sit in the presence of God, all that seems to greet me is silence. Quiet. As I sit in the silence, my heart starts to reveal itself to me, and often it isn’t pretty; in the worst-case scenarios, it actually feels overwhelming in its messiness. Due to my love for comfort and abhorrence for anything painful, I will often ignore prayer if it means ‘silence’. Sometimes it is just simply that life and circumstances around me feel too heavy and I don’t feel like I can handle anything else. But in this space, I have mistaken the place of prayer for a spiritual therapy room, rather than a wide-open field where I can rest under the shade that God’s presence offers.
Silence can often create the perfect environment for the very real and visceral lies that I believe about God to come to the surface and confront me. One of the most challenging of these that I have wrestled with – and continue to wrestle with – is that silence is the absence of the presence of God. When I sit and wait, I can hear my inner voice saying, ‘See, God wouldn’t share time with someone as faithless as you’, or ‘See, God is actually far off and distant.’ Yet silence has also often given me the gift of clarity around the state of the thoughts that shape my interactions with God; which in turn becomes an invitation from God to offer them to him, and let that shape the conversation we have as we journey through life together, as he inevitably proves these assumptions false and assures me of His faithfulness and mercy.
As I get older, I am beginning to appreciate silence as a process of becoming more comfortable with the fact that God doesn’t feel the need to rush to quieten my fear or fix my problems, but that he can rest and enjoy his creation with all its cracks and failings. My fidgety heart is yielding, little-by-little.
Sam lives just outside Glasgow in Kirkintilloch and is the Youth Work Coordinator at Bishopbriggs Community Church. In his spare time he loves to watch a good film and spend copious amounts of time with friends ( he is another level of extrovert ). His passions are Jesus, prayer, people, new plans and food.