I remember watching a Youtube video about two years ago that was taken at a youth conference somewhere in the U.S. There was a team of young adults who had put a skit together depicting a young woman struggling to discipline herself in keeping a faithful prayer life. Her spiritual well-being was represented by a large potted plant that she was carrying around with her throughout the play, and you could see how the plant became more and more delapidated as she found many other things to distract her, forgetting about the attention and care that this plant needed to thrive. Every time she even considered spending a little quiet time alone - which meant focusing on caring for the plant (her spiritual well-being) - another distraction grabbed her attention; an invitation to a party, a show on TV, the music on her iPod, a text from a friend, etc. She was very easily drawn away from any time in contemplation because the worldly distractions were so much easier to give in to. It wasn't until she came home one day to a nearly dead plant that she realized what was happening.
Such is the spirit of the world -
At least 20 years ago a new trend began to emerge where public businesses felt obligated to provide entertainment for every patron who stepped into their building. Banks started
streaming live cable stations which showed how fast your stock was diving or growing. Some grocery stores made sure that in addition to their muzak playing over the speakers, they would provide additional entertainment by installing TV's at each checkout counter. Gas stations added music and commercials which played nice and loud at each pump so you could hear it blasting over every car that pulled up next to you, and so on...
But if that wasn't doing the trick, the marketing moguls began to ramp things up only a few years later to find new exciting ways to get your attention. Huge electronic billboards now have revolving messages with extremely vibrant screens to make sure they catch your eye while you're driving at 65 mph past their ad. All of the major news networks have the latest updates scrolling across their ticker at the bottom of the screen while you're trying to keep up with the 30 second sound bites being spewed by the live newscaster in the middle of the screen. Even the children's television channels now have advertising for upcoming shows at the bottom of the screen while you're in the middle of watching Elmo and the Cookie Monster phonetically sound out the names of people in their neighborhood!
The pinnacle for me was the day I brought my daughter to the dentist a few years ago and I made the major mistake of bringing a book with me to read. No way was that even a consideration once we walked in the door. Within two minutes after I sat down, I realized that the other kids in the waiting room were trying to get their parents' attention by talking louder than the muzak being played over and above the television being blasted at the other end of the room. Seriously?
One of the most hidden outcomes from this social ADHD is that we find ourselves very unsettled, almost anxious, when we are placed in a location of absolute silence. We get surprisingly nervous when all exterior forms of stimulation come to a halt and we are left alone in a quiet place. Here we are forced to ponder....
This is, by far, one of our greatest obstacles to prayer. We will forever find ourselves intensely resistant to prayer until we are comfortable with silence.
There is a beautiful book of quotes from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta titled, "Everything Starts from Prayer"**, which contains powerful guidelines on the seriousness of silence for our prayer life. In it she is quoted as saying, "Man needs silence, to be alone or together, looking for God in silence. There it is that we accumulate the inward power which we distribute in action, put in the smallest duty and spent in the severest hardships that befall us. Silence came before creation, and the heavens were spread without a word. If you sincerely want to learn to pray, keep silence."
This is where He meets us most powerfully - in the silence.
Now we may all argue that we live very busy lives as a parent, a student, someone with a full time job and children waiting at home, or even a single person who has many pressing commitments. However, God never asks us to do something that He does not provide the means to accomplish. If we really thought about it, even during our very hectic daily routines He often gives us pockets of time when we are able to inwardly gaze upon the Lord. The secret here, my most beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, is to be attentive to that still small Voice when He is interiorly calling us to come away for a few minutes - keeping in mind that God would never ask us to do anything contrary to our state in life.
Therfore, fellow prayer warriors, let us continue to pray for one another, that we desire what the Lord desires, so that every opportunity of silence is a powerful and precious time of encounter with the Beloved who is always and forever waiting for us......
**"Everything Starts from Prayer", selected and arranged by Anthony Stern, M.D., Copyright 2009