Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
“Prayer does not necessarily mean talking to God; it more often means listening to him.” — Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Practice of the Presence of God
For many of us the first thing that pops into our head when we hear the word ‘prayer’ is the ‘Our Father.’ The ‘Our Father’ was the first prayer recited when we were baptized, the ‘Our Father’ was the first prayer that we memorized, and the ‘Our Father’ may well be the last prayer many of us may say before we die. It’s a powerful prayer, but when Jesus gives us the ‘Our Father’ he first warns us (Matthew 6:9) “do not babble like the pagans who think that they will be heard by their many words.” This may be what Blessed Lawrence of the Resurrection is also warning us about.
God speaks to us clearly. But there are a lot of problems hearing God (or anyone else for that matter). First off, our minds are filled with chatter; a non-stop stream of semi- consciousness. It’s hard for anything, including God, to get through the noise. But then we can even make it even more difficult for God. Even when God speaks clearly (which He will) we often apply “selective hearing” (i.e., denial) and convince ourselves that we didn’t hear that. And when we have finally admitted to ourselves that we heard God then we can provide lots of good reasons why we cannot heed God’s will. These are big hurdles in prayer – 1) to cut through the noise, then 2) to cut through our selective hearing, and then 3) to cut through our rationalizations of our own will over God’s will.
So how do we listen to God?
One strategy that is useful is to join ‘time’ and ‘silence’ together. Time allows our brains to slow down a bit; it takes time to process any front-burner issues in our lives, and it takes time to see past our immediate concerns. Silence speeds all this up by removing external distractions so our brains don’t have to shout so loud, we can focus a bit longer, and we just might ask God, “What did you just say?” and “Can you repeat that?” God will always oblige.