Prayer: Conversation with God
I once read a book called “The Art of Conversation.” I don’t really remember much about it, except that it supposed that real conversation should be 25% talking and 75% listening.
I know I talk too much – and when I began my ministry in Devon in 2002 I went on my first silent retreat. The member of my churches laughed. “You silent?” they said, “you won’t last a day never mind a week.” But I did – and I suddenly discovered the beauty of being quiet with God and just listening to what God has to say. In that week I wrote reflections, I walked, I drew, I listened but I did not speak.
Many people find silence difficult. Those who live alone often keep a radio on day and night to fill the gap; they talk whenever they are with others. In our busy world silence is a rarity and listening is a skill that needs nurturing.
In our prayer life we struggle to find the words we need to praise God, to ask God or to apologise to God, but there is great peace in simply being with God and saying nothing. It’s true that emptying our busy minds and stilling our busy brains is very hard, but once we have mastered it then there is space for God to get a word in. Our prayer time should be a precious jewel in our day – not just a quick prayer before bed remembered from childhood, or a “Good morning” when we get up, but continual odd thoughts and silent time set aside to listen.
Find a comfortable chair. Relax in it and take a deep breath. Just listen – what can you hear? Absorb it, and then shut your mind to that and see if you can hear the birds outside, a clock ticking, a tap dripping – and then shut that out too. Then listen to your body – your breath going in and out, your heart beating and slow everything down. Then wait…
Allow your thoughts to wander – but not too far (if you begin to think about what you need to do next then the moment has passed.) At first you may manage two or three minutes – eventually it can become an hour!
If we have a conversation with a friend we both speak and listen. In our prayer time with God we need to allow God time to speak – and to be listening for God’s word.
Revd Barbara Bennett