I’m about to publish a little book entitled ‘Wait Quietly’. I learned a lot as I wrote it.
For example, while most of us equate ‘saying our prayers’ to a recital of our needs, sometimes God will say yes, sometimes no, or wait. He might even say, “You have got to be joking!” but there will always be an answer.
I refer in my book to a study carried out in 1998 by Teal Trust, a Christian leadership organisation. Over 6,000 questionnaires were returned from members of over 400 denominations in the UK, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
One interesting finding was that 59% of the respondents felt that God had communicated with them as they prayed.
Teal Trust described that statistic as positive, but my question, and perhaps yours, is what about the 41%, almost 2,500 of the 6,000, who experienced no communication.
Could it be that they define prayer as a monologue, presenting God with a shopping list? Or, maybe God tried to communicate, but couldn’t get a word in edgeways.
I interviewed Terry Waite in 1992, shortly after he was released from his 1,763 days of captivity in Beirut.
As an Anglican he was familiar with the Common Book of Prayer and he said it was those prayers that kept him sane. He told me that he never once prayed about his awful circumstances, “Had I done that,” he said, “I know I might have lost my mind.”
Terry didn’t tell me specifically which prayers he prayed, but I can imagine him lifting his eyes heavenward and praying, “Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love, So mightily spread abroad your Spirit that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace.”
I did learn a lot as I wrote the book, for I was surprised at how many times Christians are encouraged to be still, to stop talking.
For example King David wrote, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.”
John of the Cross (1542-1591) puts it well,“What we need most is to be silent before this great God. The language he best hears is silent love.”
The mystics call prayer the Divine Gaze.
Read more from Adam at www.adamharbinsonbooks.com