Silent Prayer - Saint Mary's Wednesday 1630
We read in St Luke’s gospel that before Jesus named his apostles ‘he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God’. He must have spoken of his hopes and fears, asked for wisdom and strength for himself and for the chosen ones since he did not know how God’s plan for man would work out. But the night is a long time. In Matthew 6.vv 7, 8 in his teaching on prayer Jesus says ‘do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words ... Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him’. Surely that night of prayer must have included many silences as Jesus recognized and rested in His Father’s presence.
In Luke 10, we have the story of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy with the necessary preparation for her visitor while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet apparently idle. Upon Martha’s complaining about the injustice of the situation Jesus comments ‘Mary has chosen the good portion that shall not be taken away from her’. Not a condemnation of action, I think, but rather a commendation of silence before action.
I think it, therefore, not unreasonable to believe that from the very early days after the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit men and women have sought to know the Lord in the silence and this form of prayer is not some new fangled bright idea or just an idea borrowed from the practice of other great faiths. It has a truly Christian origin as is testified by many writers throughout the Christian era.
Meditation is very simple. It is letting go and letting God be God. It is acknowledging our helplessness and trusting ourselves to the mercy of our loving Creator. Our minds are a constant babble overloaded with a myriad of images and ideas and meditation calls for the discipline of a quiet mind. The meditator chooses a sacred word or phrase (known as a mantra), stills his body, sits upright and alert, and then slowly repeats his word throughout the period of meditation thus keeping the mind from wandering. If it does stray, simply return to the word. It is a discipline we have to learn and daily practice. We are not asking for anything or seeking any reward, simply being who we are called to be, people of love and compassion.
Over time, months and years, we do find that we are being changed; more loving, less judgmental, less concerned about having to be right, more trusting in the love of God who has promised that we will never be forsaken.
Some find it encouraging and helpful to meet and meditate with others from time to time. Such a group meets at St Mary’s each Wednesday at 4.30pm. You would be very welcome whether you are a beginner or have been on the way for some time.