Quietness and Confidence

The quieter the mind, the more powerful, the worthier, the deeper, the more telling and more perfect the prayer is.

— Meister Eckhart

An elk does not have to work at having a quiet mind; it feels content standing in a field for hours with its fellow elk, chewing grass. I never saw the elk again, even though every afternoon I searched the fields and forest for them.

During the next days I said many words to God and sat silent in his presence. I made lists, and many things came to mind that would not have come to mind had I not been sitting in a field for up to hours at a time. The week became a kind of spiritual checkup that pointed out paths for further growth. I heard no audible voice, yet at the end of the week I had heard from God.

I’ve become more convinced than ever that God finds ways to communicate with those who truly seek him, especially when we lower the volume of the surrounding static. I remember reading the account of a spiritual seeker who interrupted a busy life to spend a few days in a monastery. “I hope your stay is a blessed one,” said the monk who showed the visitor to his cell. “If you need anything, let us know, and we’ll teach you how to live without it.”

We learn to pray by praying. To begin, I need to think more about God than about myself when I am praying. The Lord’s Prayer centers first on what God wants from us, “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done”—God wants us to desire these things, to orient our lives around them.

How often do I come to God not with consumer requests, but simply with a desire to spend time with him, to discern what he wants from me and not vice versa? When I did that in the elk meadow, I mysteriously found that the answer to my prayers for guidance was around me all along. Nothing changed but my receptors; through prayer, I opened them to God.

Some have erroneously called meditative prayer a useless act, because we do it not for the sake of getting something, but spontaneously, as uselessly as a child at play. After an extended time with God, my urgent requests, which had seemed so significant, took on a new light. I began to ask for them for God’s sake, not my own. Though my needs may drive me to prayer, it is there I come face to face with my greatest need: an encounter with God himself.

— Philip Yancey

In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

— Isaiah 30:15

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