Walking Our Faith: Listening to God
Walking Our Faith
On Wednesday evening at 5 o’clock, I attended Latin mass at St. Mary’s. Because it is winter, it’s dark outside and because the chapel of St. Mary’s is very old, the lighting is dim, which only adds to the atmosphere of reverence.
I had been asked to do the readings at the last minute and so when I read the first reading from 1st Samuel, chapter three, my attention was most focused on getting the words right.
But as I read the long passage, the story became familiar and nearly took my breath away. It spoke directly to a matter I have been praying about. And this is one way God speaks to us.
In the story, Samuel, a young man, is in training to become a priest within the temple. It is late one night, he is with the elder priest Eli. Samuel hears a voice calling his name, and each time Samuel runs to Eli and says, “Here I am!” and Eli replies, “I’m not the one calling you.” After the third time, Eli understands it is in fact God who is calling Samuel, and he tells the boy what to do. When Samuel hears God calling him again, he responds as instructed, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
I am guilty of spending my time in prayer providing God with a list of my needs, my desires, my demands. And when I have finished, I say “Amen” and go about my day, wondering why God has not answered me.
Last night’s reading reminded me that as much as I need to unburden my heart to God, at least, if not more, important is learning to quiet my mind and listen to God.
My mother has told me that her prayer life has evolved in her 92 years on this earth to the point where she experiences God as an intimate friend. When she prays, she has a favorite chair she sits in, and she pictures God sitting across from her. She speaks with God, she listens, and she hears God respond, just as a good friend would.
Learning to listen to God can take many forms. There are centering prayer groups where participants sit in a circle, quiet the mind and focus on the being silent in the presence of God. There is adoration, sitting in silence in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It can also be as simple as sitting quietly in a chair at home, as my mother does each day.
But I also encourage you to get outside in God’s wondrous creation. I snowshoe because I’m a klutz, and skiing, even cross-country, has for me ended with broken bones. But snowshoeing in our beautiful woods, with my slow methodical steps, allows my mind to quiet. Admiring the snow-covered pine branches, the soft trickle of a not-quite frozen stream and the tracks from woodland animals, fill my heart with gratitude and a sense not only of God’s largeness, but of his intimate presence.
When God speaks to me, sometimes it is only a word, sometimes it is a thought and yet it always seems to be something I need to hear in that moment. Like my reading of 1st Samuel on Wednesday evening, it catches me off-guard and reminds me that God’s timing is not my timing and that he seems to enjoy catching us by surprise.
When I originally planned to write this week’s column on prayer, I thought one column would be more than enough, and then I realized how laughable that is. This column was about listening to God. I hope you’ll try some of the resources listed, try a centering prayer group or get out your Bible, read a Psalm and spend a few minutes listening to God. Next week, we’ll continue with consideration of different types of prayer.
Until then, I’ll approach prayer this week with Samuel’s words, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
Psalm 39: 8-9
Here I am, Lord!
I come to do your will.
I waited, I waited for the Lord
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.
Happy the man who has placed
his trust in the Lord
and has not gone over to the rebels
who follow false gods.
You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
Instead, here am I.
Centering prayer and adoration
Mondays: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at 6 p.m. at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Silverthorne
Tuesdays: 20 minutes of centering prayer at noon at Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge
Wednesdays: Centering prayer followed Bible study from 9:45-10:15 a.m. at Lord of the Mountains in Dillon
Thursdays: Centering prayer and discussion at 5 p.m. at Breckenridge Christian Ministries and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at 5 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Breckenridge
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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