NIGHT PRAYER: Friday 3/17

On the Fridays of Lent, Night Prayer will look at some different ways of understanding prayer. In this post, we'll look at praying when it seems that God's not responding, not even listening... when God is silent... 
(Once again, this Friday night post is an effort at helping us grow in our prayer so there's a little more material here than you usually find at Night Prayer.  I hope your patience with this longer post will help you grow in prayer...)

Of course God is often the silent partner in our prayer.  I know that I've never heard the voice of God sounding in my ears - what I pray for is to hear his voice speak to me in the scriptures and in my heart - especially when I set apart time for prayer, time to sit in his presence to pour out my heart to him and to listen for a word or a whisper of his wisdom - in the silence...

But sometimes, it seems there's only the silence. Well, perhaps I shouldn't have written "only the silence."  In Thomas Keating's words,  
                        Silence is God’s first language; 
                            everything else is a poor translation...
Meeting God's silence, then, is not the same as "getting the silent treatment" from God.  Indeed, sometimes in my own prayer, I'm grateful just to be, to rest, in the pesence of God: in his silence and mine.  Perhaps the words of Saint Francis de Sales are helpful here:
                            Cor ad cor loqitur...
                                Heart speaks to heart...  
Even with loved ones and friends, conversation can be a blessing and a joy - but there are times when the deepest joy comes in two friends simply enjoying each other's company, in the silence...
It's true, isn't it, that all prayer begins in silence, with our seeking a silence within where we might hear what God might say...
Here are a few verses from a post from a couple weeks ago and a post from 7 years ago:
To sit in the stillness,
   to ponder the mystery:
      this is a prayer...

Though my heart find no words,
   you hear my silence,
      in the stillness, close by your side...

When I struggle to find even one word to say
   you know before I
      what my soul wants to pray...
When I can't hear your voice
   I trust that your silence
      somehow answers my prayer...

You read my mind and all my thoughts;
   you search my heart, its sorrows and joys;
      you know my plea before I pray...

I need to remember this, Lord:
   just to sit in your presence, in silence,
      is prayer... 
But there are times when I'm hungry for a word from God, for a response, for an answer, for some wisdom and truth, for some guidance and direction...  And sometimes my circumstances are such that God's silence seems only to add to my troubles..  Sometimes God's silence might even lead me to doubt his presence and faithfulness...  If I find myself in such straits, it's best to bring my heart and its pain and emptiness - to prayer - to God whose silence can be as baffling as it can be frustrating and disappointing...
I'm offering three songs for our prayer this evening.  I suggest you try to make the time to pray with all three pieces and then reflect on which one (or two or three) of them best expresses your prayer this Lent...
The lyrics of the first song are lines found written on a wall in an underground hideout where some Jews hid in fear of being taken off to concentration camps and killed.  These few lines are a prayer uttered in the most difficult of times and when God's silence was certainly a test of faith. 
        I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining.
        I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
        I believe in God, even when He is silent.
Even When He Is Silent by Kim Andre Arnesen  
If the videos don't appear below, click here! 

The second song this evening is a hymn to God who is often silent but who, even in the silence, beckons us to draw near...  To appreciate this hymn, you'll need to listen all the way through...  

The third song this evening is also from a Jewish prayer, this one more ancient, from the Book of Psalms
Psalm 33: In the silent hours of night
        In the silent hours of night bless the Lord.

        O come bless the Lord, all you who serve the Lord,
        who stand in the house of the Lord,
        in the courts of the house of our God.

        Lift up your hands to the holy place
        and bless the Lord through the night.

        May the Lord bless you from Zion,
        he who made both heaven and earth.

Protect me, Lord, while I'm awake
and watch over me while I sleep
that awake, I might keep watch with you
and asleep, in the silence, 
rest in your peace...






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