There are some people I just avoid; you know the types–self-centered and critical, distracted. I walk away from time spent with them feeling depleted in spirit and sucked dry of joy, do you have people in your life like that? People that seem more interested in talking to you instead of listening to you. Their postures reveal they’re in a hurry. They keep their eye on the phone they hold in their hand while you sit there hoping for a conversation with just them, and not with their phone. I can’t tell you how much I resent that black-screened rectangle idol sometimes, yet I know you are probably holding one in your hand right now to listen to this podcast. I don’t resent them for how they are used, I resent them for the distraction they are.
Sometimes I wonder what the LORD feels when I am distracted in prayer with him overly concerned about the voices in my head. I wonder if he looks at me and feels the absence of my spirit? I wonder if he resents the idol I hold in my hand? I wonder how he feels when I rush in and out of prayer with all tongue and no ear. I know where the problem lies, it’s in me and the idea that I hold on to that I am praying to Him. What kind of relationship is that? Sometimes I wonder if he says to himself, “Shut your mouth, Lois….can you listen for a minute?….will you turn off the noise between me and you?
It seems to me that when you and I allow the distractions of ourselves to dominate our idea of the relationship we have with God, we ARE all surface and no depth; consumed by what I have to say instead of what the LORD is whispering to me. Absent of any sense that He is Emmanuel, God with me. Our LORD is a perfect gentleman, he waits for us to weary of our own redundant preoccupations, he waits for us to fix our gaze on him and to simply stop.
Father Jacque Philippe’s book, Time for God, has been an essential guide for me in the prayerful life. “What matters in prayer is not what we do but what God does in us during those moments, the essential act in prayer is, at bottom, to place oneself in God’s presence and to remain there… This presence, which is that of the living God, is active, vivifying. It heals and sanctifies us. We cannot sit before a fire without getting warm.”
I’ve come to believe that the remedy for praying to Him is learning to understand that prayer is with Him. Doesn’t that sound genuine and inviting? How can we get there? When I unite my prayer and my desires with his heart I change my posture; placing myself with him in his presence. When I enter into his rest this way I believe he hears me saying, “I’m glad to sit with you, to kneel before you, to enjoy your company!”
The question I ask myself, you may ask yourself: Why do I delay the graces God has for me by filling the air with my words? A monologue that’s all about me, myself, and I: my self-promoting desires, my self-centered attitudes, my selfish wants….do you notice the theme here? Is it familiar to you? I remember something Dallas Willard wrote about the effect of praying with God. There is a pervasive and spiritually strengthening effect on all aspects of our own sense of self when we relax into conversation with God. I kindle to that image!
I think of the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “Prayer is an upward surge of the heart.” Now, there’s the posture I need to take that will free me from the navel-gazing I’m prone to do. As I begin to understand that prayer is the response of my whole self, born from my reverence for and trust in my heavenly Father, then I am moving closer to intimacy with my LORD. The knowing and being known through conversation, where my eyes are opened wide to the genuine life of communion with the LORD.
Friend, do you sense that our heavenly Father is patiently waiting for your presence to him? Do you weary of struggling against the thoughts that distract and dismay you? I sure do!
Oh, LORD, when we are all tongue and no ear, silence us.
When we wallow in regrets pick us up out of the mud we’ve made of our life. Hold us in your arms, speak to us your cleansing words of life.
Teach us how to listen. We desire quietness to rule our spirits. Would you enlarge our hearts with longing for you? Would you unite all our desire with yours?
You speak words of life, you give wisdom to those who listen, and you grant insight to those who will look into your eyes with humble gratitude. Teach us to pray with you!
In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.