Jun 22, 2018 filed under Courage, Faith, Humility.

Woman with God in prayer

Do you know of Sister Wendy Beckett, whose art commentary wowed viewers of public TV in the nineties? Sister Wendy, now 88, lives as a hermit in a trailer on the grounds of a Carmelite monastery in England. She says the reports of her spending seven hours a day in prayer are not quite accurate.

“In actual fact, I consider my whole time as prayer, because I think prayer is a direction,” she told an interviewer in the October 2013 issue of St. Anthony Messenger.

Making coffee is prayer?
“When I get up to make a cup of coffee,” she says, “I don’t consider that my prayer has stopped for making coffee. No, it is another form of prayer. First it was an intense silence, and now it’s a freer silence, but it’s equally a way of opening myself to God.”

It’s tempting to think, “Woo-hoo! I get to call anything I want to do a prayer. If coffee is a prayer—I’m in!!

Not so fast, you saint-in-the-making. We can’t overlook the first part: intensely silent prayer is the gateway to all other prayer and virtuous action.

However we work with God to do it, however we best listen to him in silence, all other authentic prayer and action will grow out of that silence. In silence, we pry our white knuckles off the steering wheel and put God in the driver’s seat. We operate on God’s power, not expecting God to follow our way.

Silence fuels prayer and action
Keeping that in mind, Sister Wendy’s next comment is worth considering:

“I think books on prayer are very dangerous, because people read them and think that’s praying whereas prayer needs nothing.

“So I say, don’t read books on prayer. Don’t try to protect yourself against God by thinking you need to know how to do it or being afraid that you don’t know how to do it. Anyone can do it. God does it. Simply be there and let God do it. Prayer is God’s business, not our business. All he wants is to give himself to us. We just have to be there to receive him.”

Don’t read books on how to pray? Sister is getting our attention here for her main point: Don’t be afraid to pray as a simple soul before our loving God.

You have enough. You ARE enough. We should avoid using books, she says, when they help us put off having an intimate relationship with God. Books on prayer can be useful, but not if we’re using them to “protect ourselves against God.”

The scary part
My prayer life looks pretty good from the outside. But I realized I was missing the crucial ingredient: silence. Silence may be golden, but it’s also scary, which is why some are tempted to read books instead of just standing in front of God in awkward-blind-date mode.

Or we might avoid silence before God because we just can’t give up control.

The cure
Two weeks ago I made a commitment to be silent, letting God shine on me for five minutes a day. I had gotten out of the habit and noticed I was a little twitchy as a result. Just a few minutes a day (more if you can) makes a huge difference in our outlook and behavior.

If you haven’t tried just “letting God shine on you” in silence lately, I invite you to try it. It has kept Sister Wendy plugged into the God socket, feeling loved instead of stressed, for decades. It works for non-hermits like us, too.

More next week
I hope you’ll join me next week when we hear why Sister Wendy thinks we don’t need special virtues! We’ll let her ’splain herself out of that one (which, in case you’re wondering, she will do very nicely….).

Until next week, peace, love, and SILENCE.

Love always,
P.S. Scroll down and share your experiences with silent prayer. This is your chance to ask a question or help someone else with theirs!

18 Responses to “A Little Silence Every Day Changes Everything”

  1. Linda Hartzell

    ? “I will come to you in the silence….”
    a line from the hymn “Do no be afraid”.

    What a coincidence. I had never heard of Sister Wendy until this week when I saw her on one of her art commentaries from back in the day. Her art knowledge, expertise, and opinion seem to flow effortlessly from her. To learn that she now lets God flow back in through her silence is inspiring.

    Thank you for this thought-filled post, Rose.

    • Rose Folsom

      Sister Wendy says she was told that God would speak to her at her First Communion. She was so excited about that. But after communion, she did not hear the voice of God. Immediately she realized, she said, that that’s how God speaks — in the silence.

  2. Martha Otten

    I adored sister Wendy’s epistles on art on PBS. I concur prayerworks out from within our collective consciousness as a special means of peace for all world concerned. Thanks arose for this blessed reminder of who we are as one people sharing one planet.

  3. Donna Sciacca

    The first 5 min after waking work best for me…more if I rise earlier before having to start my day. The peaceful quiet & semi-darkness of the morning allows my brain to be silent. Sometimes I am only capable of praying a simple “Thank You Lord for blessing me with another day” I go make the coffee. But I too believe prayer does not end there, it continues throughout my day. God bless

    • Rose Folsom

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. No matter how little or much we are able to do, there’s something profound about giving God the first fruits of our day.

  4. Ann

    Appreciate the thought. Just this werk, a new confessor, a Dominican. counseled me to sit in silence and pray a Jesus prayer. O Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. Thanks for the reinforcement, I’ll try it!

  5. JUDY

    Adoration before the blessed sacrament has opened up times with God for me in ways I can’t put into words. The silence that was awkward at first and then grew into communicating along with silence has now translated into my prayer life growing as I live in my daily world! I have learned what Wendy says…. to simply talk to our Lord anytime. It comes more easily with practice. So loved reading this Rose! Thank you!

    • Rose Folsom

      When the love goes beyond words, that’s my signal that God is present. I love your phrase “opened up times with God…”

  6. MaryStasek

    I start my prayers around 4 in the morning, by praying for our Pope,then Cardinal,next Archbishop,then Bishop, our parish Priest ,etc.my living family and husbands; also then deceased my and husbands; and the list goes onto all catholices,and fallen away;that they return to the fold.and more!

  7. Tom Roberts

    I love art. After watching Sister Wendy I REALLY love art. I have her collection on VHS; time to upgrade to DVD. I look forward to any and all observations by Sister Wendy with the knowledge that she’s already blown away the chaff.

    A few months ago I joined a small contemplative prayer group which runs for an hour (two 20 minute sessions with a break) at our church. It takes practice. Last week I wandered off and counted the twelve cranial nerves (occupational hazard). But it’s immensely rewarding to share the silence of friends.

    • Rose Folsom

      I’m not up to 20 minutes yet, although that’s my goal…..Did I say goal? God is outside time, so even a moment with him is a kind of eternity. :)

  8. Faye McAneny

    Nothing much to say. Sitting in my silence.
    Thank you all