In our modern world, we are surrounded by technology; television, internet, Facebook, Smart phones, and so many diverse forms of diversion. We have even learned over the years that prayer is one way; speaking as many words as possible as quickly as you can. We tend to chatter on all of the time, impatient when someone else is chattering and refusing to really hear them at all. We like to have conversations with ourselves.
All real conversations, including prayer, start with listening – to more than just sounds and words; we need to listen to the layers of meaning. All conversations presume a relationship of some level. Relationships connect us at both the local and at the universal levels of existence; all of creation is connected. To listen demands patience, openness, and a willingness to share. It requires us to dig deeper for better understanding at times and to realize that we all have some share of truth. No one has the whole truth; no individual, no family, organization, race, ethnic community, religion or nation. We all struggle. Where we fail so often is found in our failure to listen to the other; we are too busy demanding our interpretation of reality. There is no love in this process; simply a compulsion to dominate and to have our own way.
In prayer, how often are we actually engaged in contemplation or active listening? For the most part, we are asking, begging, demanding, pleading; but always words or feelings centered on what we want. However, I would suggest that we actually actively listen to a new born child, struggling to breathe and to open the eyes for the first time. Listening is being open to life becoming; to love reaching beyond the self to become immersed within the other; within the other person and within the universe itself. To watch and listen to nature move through the cycles of birth, maturation, death and resurrection and to realize that we are part of that; life becoming. To hear the whispers of the Creator in life all around us and within us. Some times, we need to simply breathe deeply and to listen to the Spirit whispering the sounds of love. When all we can do is talk, talk, talk, we fail to hear that Spirit responding – and engaging in conversation. We need to turn off the noise, take out the ear plugs, take a walk around the neighborhood or through the woods and simply listen. At this point, we begin to move from the superficial and to hear that Sprit that resides within the marrow or our bones, in the depth of our heart.
“And in naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
and no one dare
disturb the soul of silence.
And the people bowed and prayed
to the neon god they made
and the Signs flashed out it’s warning
in the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
and tenement halls”
and whispered in the sounds of silence.” (Simon & Garfunkel)