Beth A. Richardson
Try the following practice for five to seven days. In this exercise, each day you will ask a question during a time of inner silence. The purpose of the exercise is not to find an answer to the question or to think about the question with your intellect. The purpose is to let the question float into your heart where God’s presence can sit alongside it, be present in your feelings, or speak to you in the silence.
1. Set aside fifteen or twenty minutes during which you will not be interrupted. Invite God to sit with you in this quiet time and ask for God’s presence as you ask yourself a question.
2. Settle yourself comfortably, yet solidly, in a chair. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth five or ten times. Let them be deep breaths so that if someone else were with you, they could hear you breathing. Then close your mouth and breathe normally.
3. Observe each breath as it comes and goes. Concentrate on where you feel the rising and falling of the breath in your body. If it helps you focus on the breath, count the breaths up to ten and then start over again. Or think about a prayer word or phrase that will assist you in letting your thinking mind slow down and come to a quiet place.
4. If you find yourself distracted by a noise or a thought, gently return your focus to the breath or to your prayer word or phrase. It’s normal for distractions to arise.
5. When you find that your mind is quiet, ask yourself a question. This could be a big or a small question, one that has just occurred to you or one that you have been carrying inside for a long time. Ask the question as though you were asking someone else. Then let the question sink into your heart, into your breath. As you continue to breathe, observe the emotion, the image, the sense, that comes to you. Let yourself breathe into, pray into, soak into whatever comes to you.
6. If you find yourself engaging in vigorous thoughts or debates about the question, gently return to counting your breaths or focusing on your prayer word or phrase.
7. Continue to breathe or rest in the feeling, image, or sense that came forward in response to your question.
8. After a time, gently let your awareness come back to your surroundings.
9. As you finish your time of meditation, say a prayer of thanks for God’s presence, for quiet, for questions, for feelings.
It is natural for us to engage a question with our intellect, with our thinking mind, rather than letting it sink into our heart so that we can hear in a different way.
You may find that after a day or two or three, you have a sense of the answer to the question. Or it may be a question that you might need to sit with for a week, a month, or longer. Sometimes you might find that the question of your heart changes. The point of the exercise is to make the space to ask the questions. To listen to what comes forth, not from your thinking mind, but from the space within you when you quietly connect with God’s Spirit in prayer and meditation.
From “Asking the Questions — Sitting in the Silence” by Beth A. Richardson. Originally published in Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, May/June/July 2015, Vol. 30, No. 3. Copyright © 2015 The Upper Room.
Photography by Jace & Afsoon / Unsplash
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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