If you read my last post, you know it was about what prayer is not. At least, what it is not for me. It is not a booming voice. It is not a miraculous dialogue. It is not a euphoric or ecstatic personal conflagration sparked by the Divine.
So what is it?
My whole life, I was taught that prayer was “a conversation with God”, but I wasn’t sure how to converse with Someone Whose voice I could not hear. My prayer time seemed much more an exercise in trying to keep my mind blank than anything else.
But as I’ve grown and read and learned from others, I have learned to hear God.
I don’t hear a booming voice like Moses heard on the mountain. I don’t even hear the “still, small voice” that Elijah heard in 1st Kings; at least, not in the way Elijah did.
What I hear is something of a catching in my soul, a sieve that sifts out all but what I need to hear, and then simply, inaudibly, whispers, “Here. This.”
I was taught the process of Lectio Divina by my first spiritual director and have been reminded and rejuvenated in that process many, many times by books and saints and friends and priests over the last seven years or so. It is the most direct way that God speaks to me.
I have always experienced God’s presence in a variety of ways, but there is something unique and intimate and startling about the way He comes to me through this process of prayer. And it’s the piece I find most people are missing.
I’ve heard friends and family talk about how they see God in nature or how music makes them feel a Presence or how the gym or the track or the studio is their “church”. While I of course agree that they likely are having some sort of experience of God’s Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in those moments, it’s just not the same as what happens in prayer.
Being a dad has changed the way I see my faith and my personal relationship with Christ. When I think about hearing God’s voice, I wonder if I will hear it more clearly and maybe even audibly when I “grow up” more in my faith. Right now, my daughter doesn’t understand much of what I say. And what I tell her is probably almost indiscernible from the rest of the noises and sounds and even voices she hears everyday.
But when I slow down and say one thing very clearly to her, her focus sharpens and she understands. I often say it softly and lean into her as I speak. Sometimes, like when I’m teaching her a new sign or trying to get her to stop her whole smack-myself-really-hard-in-the-head-for-no-apparent-reason thing, I will move her hand where I want it to go, make it do what I want it to do.
This is the still, small voice I hear in Scripture. This is the type of communication I experience. Perhaps I will hear a booming voice someday. But for now, the quiet words of the Gospels sink into me as I read them, and that is enough. As a matter of fact, they’re all I can really understand. I think if God started speaking full sentences to me, my broken little soul would implode.
So instead, He whispers to me, gently, repeatedly, simply, like a Father trying to teach His child to understand. He is building the vocabulary of my love.
One day, I believe we will sing to each other, and maybe it will sound something like this.
(The only reason I’m including this is because I love it and it uses the phrase “still, small voice” in it…and I think it’s one of the most lyrically rich songs I’ve ever heard. Plus it’s my blog and I get to do what I want)