In a previous devotional I shared a beautiful poem about the pattern of prayer. Prayer can be as simple as being still…in secret; and then “draw with words and silence the shape of your heart. Touch the power and the glory for ever and ever…now. This is prayer.”
Continuing this devotional on prayer I would like to share a few thoughts that might be helpful for those of us who are growing older. Of course, we’re all growing older minute by minute, but some of us recognize this phenomenon more often than those who are younger.
In our prayer lives we discover how the God of love, who gave us the strength to walk and talk, can also in our latter years show us how to sit and listen – to learn the silence of God.
To activate this prayer one must unwind. If you’ve been an active, talkative person, with an opinion about everything – and are always right – you may need some divine power just to loosen the spring. We can’t enjoy the silence of God unless we give up some of the cacophony of a “ring-a-ding” life.
A 17th century nun in a prayer describes what needs to happen. The nun prays:
“Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not mood; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint – some of them are so hard to live with – but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.” Amen.
A wise prayer, and a beautiful way to prepare oneself for the silence of God. And what is that silence? How does one recognize it? A modern mystic writes,
“Silence is a dark night where soul and mind abide
To wait for light
That is God’s speech.
Silence is a school of love and death
Where soul meets life.
Silence is the key to the immense furnace of love –
The heart of God.
Silence is speech of passionate love
Spent in the arms of God.
Silence is – oneness with the Lord”
Molchanie: The Silence of God – Catherine De Hueck Doherty
Old age provides opportunities for silence which can be used for communion with God or lost to resentment. You may not hear the music of a vibrant life, so to speak, but music can be heard in the silence. Music after all is a blend of sound and silence. The rests in musical notation are as important as the notes. Without silence there is only a din of noise – no shape, no beauty, no message.
For most of us our younger years were spent living out the music of many notes. But as we get older we can listen in the silence to the music which God wishes to share with us. It is as if we sat on the lap of the Lord – with no words spoken – yet feeling within a song of God’s love. God sings through the song of silence. Silence is God’s first language. This too is prayer.