Trust in Him

Friday, May 28, 2010

Eliminating Noise During Prayer


I can hear the loud voices of the crows overhead, and the beating of their wings,
I see them as they clutter the sky, and disturb the serenity and beauty of the evening.

All too often when we settle down to pray our minds become filled with random thoughts or concerns that gravely hinder, even cancel entirely, our ability to listen to God's word in our souls. Silence is essential for deep prayer of any kind, and until we can foster interior silence we will be unable to experience Christ in a deep and personal manner. I have spoken about interior silence before, but I speak of it again because of today's readings. "Be quiet and sober, that you may be able to pray." (1 Peter 4:7) We will not simply have difficulty praying without silence, we will not be able to pray properly at all. "And He overturned the tables of the money changers, for His Father's house is a house of prayer." (Mark 11:15-19) As blessed abodes of Jesus in the Eucharist, we need to foster a silence in our hearts that is not disrupted by our daily business and worries.

The best way to find out if you have achieved interior silence is to take a moment and stop thinking. Now... what are you thinking about? Unless you are a very experienced contemplative, your mind is not empty of thought. However, identifying what we are thinking about in moments of silence will help us to distinguish what it is that is distracting us. Perhaps when I kneel down to pray I am thinking about what I have to do later in the day... in this case I must learn to empty myself and trust in God, giving Him my whole attention. Perhaps when I kneel down to pray I think of a conversation I have, or a mistake I made... I should strive to be less conscientious of my embarrassments or compliments, for this is a sign of pride. Maybe I think about God, or turn Hail Marys over in my mind, if this is the case then at least my focus is correct.

Our focus during meditation is very important for achieving interior silence. For instance, at times it is impossible for me to pray contemplatively until I have first said a rosary and meditated on the mysteries of Christ's life. This prepares my mind to focus on Christ, and generally my "unconscious" thought is still saying the Hail Marys as I pray. At times I adopt the Benedictine style of prayer and choose a spiritual book, or the Bible, to give me something to think about initially. While not always the orthodox method of prayer, when I enter into a lengthy conversation with God, which is intended to end in silence and contemplative "listening", I begin by telling Jesus a story. Usually it has to do with missionaries, or something beautiful and close to my heart. This results in the best form of prayer... because it does not move my focus to a mystery of Jesus, or some interesting piece of information, but rather to Jesus Himself. When I take the time to tell Jesus my story, I am recognizing His presence with me and entering into a deep and personal conversation with Him.

Most people associate darkness with silence. They rely on interior imagining and exterior silence to focus themselves on God. However, this doesn't always work, because the real noise is in ourselves. It is our own thoughts and distracting imaginings, even the sinful imaginings we most avidly avoid, that are the main cause of that noise and unrest we experience during prayer. When I receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, I reserve that time as precious, for me and Jesus alone. Usually I walk back down the isle worrying about how wide I'd opened my mouth to receive the host on my tongue, or still thinking about the priest's face as he said "The Body of Christ", or some other thing that had entered my mind during the communion process. But it only takes me a moment to say "Its alright, Jesus is here now, nothing else matters, this is our time." and begin to pray, always sure to tell Him that I love Him over and over. Sometimes I'll think of beautiful images reflecting the love between Jesus and myself. However, I do not close my eyes. During this deep and personal time with Jesus, in the midst of my most beautiful imaginings, I do not close my eyes.

My statement surprises you, no? When I return to the pew in my new spiritual elation, I choose a spot on a pew in front of me, the wall, the alter... something, and I just stare at it. I don't look at it, however, my mind is entirely focused on Jesus. So why do I not close my eyes and enjoy "closing out" everything else? I discovered some time ago that I experienced Jesus more deeply when my eyes were closed, and that I simply could not experience Him when my eyes were open, and where there was a lot of light. When I would open my eyes after the communion meditation period was over, I would "wake up" and Jesus would be lost to me (not always). I also noticed that I had difficulty praying for long periods of time because I would get very tired, and, with my eyes closed, I'd want to lay down. Because it was my intention to have Jesus ever with me, and always in my thoughts... and I desired to be able to pray for an extended period of time... I practiced keeping my eyes open as I experienced Jesus. I discovered that my ability to focus on Jesus in the midst of interior distractions was tenured and excelled when I learned to focus on Him in the midst of exterior distractions.

So many think that meditation and Holy Hours insinuate rosaries, Bibles, prayer books, and other exterior methods of prayer. Although these forms of prayer are beautiful, the more we immerse ourselves in standard prayer in times of silence the less we will be able to find silence in personal contemplation, and the less we will be able to listen to the voice of God in our hearts. The intimate relationship we have been offered by God is a precious gift, and we need to foster and encourage it. The more silent periods we engage in, the more opportunities we have to identify and root out interior noise. Interior silence provides us with spiritual rest, a deeper perception of the mystery of love, and a priceless perception of God Himself.

I have written a post specifically on the art of listening in discernment. If you find that you have difficulty with this kind of prayer, it may be beneficial to you as well. "Your Answer: How to Listen"

Dear Jesus, prepare my heart to receive your gentle wisdom, and bless me with your presence. Help me to achieve interior silence so that I may better love you, and that I may not be distracted from you during prayer. You are the pearl of my heart and nothing should ever take precedence over you, please teach me how to keep you foremost in my mind. Let me see you everywhere, in everyone and in everything. Let me be constantly reminded that you are the Lord of creation and the King of my heart. Give to me the grace of rest and prayer, so that I may be more pleasing to you.

4 comments:

  1. this is really helpful, thankyou!

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  2. Thank you :). I think a lot of people struggle with this particular thing...

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  3. Very nice and informative blog helps in reducing the noise during the prayer time. Thanks for sharing. I like it.

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  4. Thank you very much for visiting my blog, Marc, I am glad you have found this helpful. God bless you :).

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