Excerpt from “Courage to Pray”

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The Search for Silence

We seek for silence in both a human and divine way. We must both seek it ourselves and hope for it as a gift. The human search is described for us in a remarkable in a remarkable manner in the medieval writings of Fr. Laurence on the Practice of the Presence of God. In a much humbler fashion, I should like to tell the story of an old woman who had prayed for many years without ever perceiving the presence of God but who finally found it in silence. Shortly after my ordination to the priesthood I was sent into an old people’s home to celebrate Christmas with them. A very old woman came to me. She told me that she had constantly recited the prayer of Jesus for many years but she had never been given the experience of the presence of God. Young as I was, I found a simple answer to her problem, ‘How can God get a word in edgewise if you never stop talking. Give him a chance. Keep quiet.’ ‘How can I do that?’ she said. I then gave her some advice which I have since given to others because it worked on that occasion. I advised her after breakfast to tidy her room and make it as pleasant as possible and sit down in a position where she could see the whole room, the window onto the garden, the icons with their little oil lamps. ‘When you have sat down, rest for a quarter of an hour in the presence of God, but take care not to pray. Be as quiet as you can and as you obviously can’t do nothing, knit before the Lord and tell me what happens.’ After a few days she came back happily. She had felt the presence of God. I asked her curiously what had happened. She said she had done exactly what I had suggested. She sat down and looked about her quietly and peacefully feeling she had the right to be inactive and not praying and for the first time in years, she said, she noticed that the room was pleasant and peaceful to be in. She looked at it and saw it for the first time. There was an encounter between her and the place she had lived in for many years without ever seeing. Then she became aware of the peace and silence round her, a peace and silence accentuated by the ticking of her clock and the clicking of her needles on the arms of her chair. Gradually this silence which had been outside her came within her and enveloped her. The silence took her out of herself into a richer silence which was not just the absence of noise but rich in itself and at its centre she found a presence. And when she felt this presence she was moved to pray but from the depths of this silence, not in floods of words and in a whirl of thoughts, but gently and quietly taking each word from the silence and offering it to God. Of its own accord her prayer had become the expression of her inner silence and part of the silence of God which she had felt. This is a method easy for everyone to try. It means of course contending with the whirl of thoughts, the heart’s hesitations, the body’s restlessness and the giddiness of the will., There are many exercises based on ascesis and psychology. But even without these, simply letting go of ourselves before God into the depth of silence we are capable of, will help us make great progress…

 

– Courage to Pray, Met. Anthony Bloom, pgs. 44-45

 

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One response »

  1. Pingback: A few thoughts on Courage to Pray « suziereads

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