In the Stillness

Prayer is a conversation with God; don’t be intimidated by it. Granted, the fact that you’re addressing someone of that magnitude should inform the way you communicate, but I don’t think you have to have it all figured out before you start. In a good conversation, though, people go back and forth. They listen. They ask questions and wait for a response. It’s odd, then, that most of our prayers end up being a one-sided conversation. When we ask God something, how many times do we actually listen and/or watch for the answer? Ex. “God, why is this happening??? And by the way…”  Have you ever been in a conversation like that where you have to try to slip in words quickly when the person takes time to breathe? It’s terrible! There’s a difference between talking to someone versus talking with someone. Even in saying that, I recognize the plank in my own eye and can think of many times when I wasn’t a great listener in conversations with people… thanks for being patient with me, family.

I don’t think we take enough time to pause, reflect, and listen to what God is saying to us. Rarely do we approach God without something to tell him other than what the prophet Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

This past weekend I went to a Catholic monastery called the Abbey of Genesee in New York for a silent retreat. At first, it was very difficult because all you can really do is think and listen. It felt like my thoughts were caught in a tornado swirling around my head. So much happening. But as the day went on, I began to experience the peace that accompanies stillness. I journeyed outside into the beautiful sunshine by the lake and just sat. It’s amazing how small all of our worries become when we have the right perspective on them. God calmed my heart with His presence and revealed to me deeper levels of His sovereignty.  I was still, and I knew that He was God. There is power in silence and solitude.

Inside the Abbey where the monks would chant the Psalms
Inside the Abbey where the monks would chant the Psalms

Jesus Himself, the Son of God, took time to pause and find a quiet place to recharge. The Word says in Luke 5:16 that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” The truth is, I don’t think most of us like ourselves enough to want to spend time alone. When you’re alone, you actually have to face yourself. Your insecurities. Your weaknesses. Your brokenness. All of it comes to the surface. It’s painful. But if you stick with the process, God will come to you in that moment and bring comfort and healing. Father Jerome, a hilarious monk at the Abbey, said that when most people come for a retreat they bring two suitcases: one for their clothes and one for their books. He reminded me that reading a bunch of books isn’t the point of a retreat of this nature. In doing that, you’re still distracted and not truly able to examine yourself and listen to the still, small voice of God.

“…in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” ~ Excerpt from Isaiah 30:15

Solitude is not just found in the absence of people, but in the presence of God. Solitude is not justification to isolate yourself or to runaway when life gets challenging. That said, there is tremendous merit to intentionally getting away from all of the noise to pause and reflect. Even in our day to day lives with all of the busyness around us, we can experience the presence of God in a way that stills our heart in the midst of it all. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Be still and know that He is God.

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