Saturday, 30 July 2011

Prayer and silence (2)

“Let thy soul walk soft within thee,
as a saint in heaven unshod.
For to be alone in silence
is to be alone with God”

I ended my blog entry yesterday with these words:

“If we listened (to God) how might we hear, and what would we hear?”


1.    HOW?

I offer a few suggestions.

(a)   Some of the mystics and saints (of many religions) have heard a clear and audible voice. They believed it to be the voice of God. I do not discount the possibility of such a voice, but I must also be reminded that some megalomaniacs, or tragically mentally ill folks (and I do not place them in the same “box”) have claimed to have heard God’s voice.  

Should we hear such a voice, it will only be congruent with the will of God if it is congruent with the witness of scripture. Only those “voices” which instruct us to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8) may be trusted.

(b)   After long silences in the presence of God, we may well hear God’s voice in our intuition. Godly intuition will always lead us into the service of others. It will always lead us to “love our neighbour as ourselves”.

(c)   God will oft times speak to us in the questions and words of trusted and prayerful friends.  When our best friends offer gracious counsel (especially if that counsel “goes against the grain”) we shall be wise to listen.  We must be humble and ask:  “is God speaking to me through their questions and counsel?”

(d)   God will speak to us through the witness and words of Holy Scripture, and through the wisdom of righteous people from all places and in all times.

2.    WHAT?

What will God say?  Here are some suggestions:

(a)   I am not the magician in the sky.  I am not a celestial Santa. I cannot make everything come out right.  That would be too easy for you!

(b)   You will indeed experience suffering, death and tragedy.  No one is exempt. That was the “lot” of Jesus, and that will be your lot.  It’s the way I’ve made things --  so that love may triumph over power.



(c)   “I will never leave you”. God’s promise is that s/he will always be faithful, and always be trustworthy.

(d)   “Do not be afraid”.  Words to that effect are the most oft repeated in the Jewish/Christian Scriptures.

(e)   “Come out of self will and isolation into sharing and community. It is with and through others that you will be sustained, strengthened and led to wholeness.”

There is no magic in prayer.  There is no divine panacea for all our ills. 

There is simply the fact that when we are in love with God and in love with God’s creation, we will be upheld and strengthened by what Christians call grace, especially when matters do not “come out right”. God “stands by us”.

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By imperfect analogy, that’s also true in our human relationships.  A friend/partner/spouse/parent that “made everything come out right” would lead us to a place of dreadful dependency, and would cede far too much power to that person.

But we can grow, mature and develop character, and skills for living when that friend/partner/spouse/parent does no more or no less than to “stand by us”.

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