As a Christian, silence is crucial. Without it we are unable to hear God’s voice in the noise of this world. What does it mean to hear God’s voice? Very simply, it means taking the time to discern to what God’s Will for us is in everything that we do. If we are filled with “noise”, then deciphering God’s Will becomes tricky.
When we are filled with noise, we get the worlds influence and God’s influence all jumbled up. Example: Suzy thinks her desire to go backpacking around the world has been placed in her heart by God, when in reality it’s a result of her House Hunters International binge marathon. While this is a trivial example, it shows how external factors can sound like the voice of God when in fact they are not.
How do we achieve the silence needed to hear God’s Will? The answer to that question is prayer. To help us understand the importance of silence and prayer, I will refer to the nuggets of wisdom left to us by the great Saint Teresa of Avila.
1. Take time every day to “go into solitude and look at Him within oneself, and not turn away from so good a Guest but with great humility speak to Him as a father” (Way of Perfection Ch. 28).
St. Teresa of Avila makes it clear that when we pray we have to be intentional. We must separate ourselves from whatever is going on and enter into conversation with God.
It’s no secret that we have short attention spans, God knows this and He works with our weakness. But we must also take concrete steps that help us overcome these stumbling blocks. And that is why solitude is so important. When we separate ourselves from distraction it becomes easier for us to zone in on our alone time with God.
2. Put a limit on the amount of media you ingest.
While this is not a directive from St. Teresa of Avila, this is something she might have advised if she were navigating the ups and downs of prayer in the 21st century.
This is a tough one, because many times our phones and other media consumption can be a source of relaxation in our busy lives. First, let me tell what I’m not saying: all kinds of TV, movies and music are bad and must be avoided at all times. That would be absurd and fatalistic of me to say.
Here is what I am saying; be honest with yourself about how media takes up your time. Is it offensive to God? Do you spend so much time on the phone, TV, and/or computer that you don’t have time to pray? Do you find yourself running to these things instead of God when you’re feeling down?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, sit down and seriously ask yourself how you can make the answers to these questions no. When we pin point bad habits that keep us away from alone time with God, we make our path to Holiness more purposeful. If we don’t take these steps, the danger is that what we will fill our souls with junk, rather than the life of God.
3. Determination in prayer.
No matter how many times we fail in our quest towards prayer and silence, we should always persist. When we are struggling with consistency in prayer, we should remember the following words from St. Teresa: “He’s [the Devil] extremely afraid of determined souls, for he has experience the great harm they do him” (Way of Perfection Ch. 23).
Did you know this? That your determination to pray makes the Devil tremble? Now that you know, own it. Make a resolve to follow that prayer regimen you’ve set for yourself. Do what needs to be done to make time for conversation with God.
Essentially, prayer is not about us. It’s about giving God what he deserves – which is our whole being. St. Teresa says to keep this in mind when you are feeling dry, feeling sad, or just not in the mood to pray (Way of Perfection Ch. 23). Because when we remember this, we realize that God is the one who suffers when we don’t come to Him in prayer. So let’s console the Heart of Jesus and truly make our souls a quiet place.
If you’re looking for a place to start with prayer, I’d suggest reading up on the method of prayer developed by St. Teresa of Avila which can be found here.
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!