In a new book I must read, and you might wish to read as well, is T. E. Lurhmann’s When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. In the book, the author tells of a time when someone asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta how she communicated with God. “When you pray, what do you say to God?” Her answer? “I don’t talk. I listen.”Then came the additional question: “So what then does God say to you?” Her answer? “He doesn’t talk. He listens.”
How beautiful! This is why Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your closet,” symbolic, of course, for the inner world of silence. A literalist of scripture would be required to designate an actual closet in his or her home and so fulfill a literal reading of these words. But, of course, to do that is to miss the point of Jesus altogether. Mother Teresa’s words come closest to the heart of Jesus’ meaning. You most clearly know the Ineffable Reality we call God, not because you’ve gotten to this place where you and God are like chums meeting at Starbucks on Saturday morning for a Skinny Latte and some soul exchange. I am discovering that I feel most deeply connected with Source itself, not when I clutter my mind with pleas for help, petitions for myself, others, and so forth, but by emptying my mind of thoughts and wishes, needs and desires.
For much of my life, I thought prayer was my way of rubbing a proverbial Aladdin’s Lamp. My words were to stroke the side of God’s reluctance, thereby releasing a Genii God to grant all my worthy wishes. This is still the view of prayer for many people.
If you think of God as separate from you, however, as a kind of reluctant granter of wishes who sits somewhere up in the sky and only if you have the “right” kind of faith, or as the peddlers of Christianity on television frame this madness – only if you have “enough” faith, like having just enough half-n-half in one’s morning coffee – that is to say, only if you have the “right” stroke of God’s benevolent side to release his kindness, like a therapist who perfectly strokes the pain in your back and the discomfort vanishes – only then, will your “faith” overcome God’s reluctance and your prayers get through and get answered.
What a limited understanding of God!
Instead of this madness, may I suggest an alternative. Practice entering into the world of stillness. Be mindful of the infiniteness of outer space and know that it mirrors the fathomless depths of your inner world – a world so vast, so empty, so wordless, quiet and refreshing…so empty of God, yet so completely God…so empty of your self and, yet, so completely yourself. It is in this world of silence that you hear for the first time the transformative silence of Spirit itself. Today, reflect on Mother Teresa’s words, “In prayer, I do not talk, I listen.” And, what will you be listening for? Nothing! Which is the Voice of Everything!
This is the Mystery of Life and the source of happiness.