I light my usual candle and settle into the rocker. The little light springs to life as I prepare for my nightly ritual with God. The candle is the invitation: the signal that God is near and I am getting ready to settle into His presence with the prayer of silence.
And then I begin as I do every night with the settling of my soul before Him.
Breathe in, breathe out. The wrestling for silence.
There is a tension in silence in which I am learning to be comfortable. Do you have a gymnastics mind too? Whirring and flipping this way and that, yet longing to be centered in the presence of God? Most nights, I find I need an aid to anchor myself in the silence with God. Usually a “prayer word” comes to mind–words such as “love,” “adore,” “come,” and “yearn”–which I use to focus on my Lord. And then there are the days, when the word becomes “help.” Do you have those days too?
The simple prayer of silence means a naked intent of desire stretching out towards God. It is not a prayer of petition, but rather the practice of sitting in His presence; embracing and worshipping God for who He is alone, for his own sake, not for what gifts He has to offer. It is simply a desire for God and for loving God alone because He is a God of love. In my practice of this form of prayer, I have discovered it to be the most powerful prayer of all.
It is not a prayer of petition, but rather the practice of sitting in His presence; embracing and worshipping God for who He is alone…
In Romans 8:26-28 we read:
“And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I find that in the prayer of silence, I am practicing these verses. Why? Because as I desire God for Him alone, I also desire all that God is: love, justice, mercy, and holiness. I embrace everything God desires and loves as I embrace the Designer and Lover of the universe. Honestly, I don’t usually know how to pray for situations or people in my life. I can pray my wants, needs, and desires (and I do), but in silence, I embrace and surrender to what God already desires for me and for others. I rest in His sovereignty and perfect love and find that His perfect will covers everything. Silence is a resting in the “groanings too deep for words,” and letting the Spirit intercede for me. I rest in loving God alone. As my gymnastics mind brings snippets of this and that to attention in my time of silence, I simply acknowledge those things as covered by the love of God, letting them float on by without trying to puzzle them out.
Silence is a resting in the “groanings too deep for words,” and letting the Spirit intercede for me.
And then I open my eyes in peace and am ready to move on to the next part of my prayer ritual: noticing the movements of God’s loving presence throughout the day, and thanking Him for them. I find journaling helpful, so I write down the answers to two questions:
- Where today did I see God’s presence, love, and action? I call these reflections the Gratitudes, and I journal them with God in prayer. These are the areas where I was able to give and receive the most love, where I felt the most alive, and felt the greatest sense of belonging.
- Where did I move away from God today? I call these the Desolations. In Dennis Linn’s book Sleeping with Bread, he describes the desolations this way: “When I discover something I am not grateful for, I name it, feel it, and appreciate that I am not denying it and God is with me in it. Healing occurs to the degree I welcome ALL my feelings and let myself be loved in them. In this way I honestly acknowledge pain and take in love.”
Over and over we are invited to “pray in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18, 1 Cor. 14:15, Jude 1:20). In the daily discipline of silence and gratitude in prayer, I have found a worshipful practice that breathes life, invites the Spirit to guide and give direction, and makes me aware of the underlying movements of God in my life.
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Image Credit: Ananth BS, Creative Commons