The morning light begins to illumine the Eastern sky. I can hear the waves of the Strait of Juan de Fuca pounding upon Dungenness Spit and then off in the distance is the haunting call of an eagle. This morning there is only a slit through the gray clouds allowing the yellow and golden colors of the morning sun to shine forth. Other mornings the sky is alive with color, with beauty, with grandeur. Off in the distance is the baritone voice of a seal and the squawking of seagulls playing in the wind.
A description of prayer was offered by St. John Damascene (c 676-c 787), “To pray is to offer one’s heart to God.” My prayer begins in silence before God’s presence, resting in God’s love and enjoying his gifts of creative splendor. Prayer begins for me, not with words, not with speaking to God, but with silence, being with God.
This morning I invited Jesus to sit in the lawn chair next to me and enjoy the morning’s drama and beauty. Together we watched, together we enjoyed, together we pondered the beauty he had created by the word of his mouth. This is prayer. Nothing accomplished. Nothing startling or miraculous, only Jesus and I sitting together, watching, enjoying, marveling.
In addition to petitions and intercessions, in addition to confessing sins and praising our Savior, prayer can involve much more. To enjoy the gifts of God in creation is also prayer. Prayer also involves being lost in the loving presence of God. It is being still before the lover of our whole being; it is resting in the One who knows me completely and still loves me completely. This is intimacy with God in Christ. Though I do not often “feel” God’s presence and I do not often experience God’s miraculous hand stretched out, though the miraculous does happen, I bask in God’s love and love is what transforms my life.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Somewhere we know that without a lonely place, our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence, words lose their meaning; that without listening, speaking no longer heals; that without distance, closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a solitary place, our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the spiritual life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention.” (Spiritual Formation, pp. 21f)
And so my “prayer time” begins in silence.