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Franciscan Spirit Blog

What Is Silent Prayer?

Jun 20, 2019
What Is Silent Prayer?

I hope this blog will help you find the contemplative experience you seek. What you and I may indeed need at this juncture is what some spiritual guides and writers call the “Prayer of Inner Quiet.” One of the richest forms of prayer can occur when the heart is absolutely quiet. As the psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Several years ago, Dominican Sister Sylvia Rosell, from the Stillpoint House of Prayer in Albany, New York, explained it to me this way: “If you still your mind, you can hear your own heart. And at the core of your heart is the indwelling of God. It’s just like when you love someone, you just sit there and you look at each other. You just silently stare, and there is a terrible presence between you. It’s an awesome thing. God is present and you are present—to each other. It’s a matter of just being there.”

For example, we might start out with the reading of a short passage from Scripture, but gradually our words and thoughts simplify. The natural drift of prayer is often from words to silence, according to Father William Johnson, SJ, who has written several books on prayer. At times, he says, we may feel led, as if by a hidden compass, into this kind of silent union with God.

In many cases, prayers that rely on words may be the best form of prayer for us. In fact, Father Johnson cautions against striving too hard to get rid of words and thoughts. Yet he believes we should be conscious of those times when the Spirit is moving us to silence. “It’s like there are two layers of the psyche,” he explains. “In one layer there are lots of words and thoughts going on, but on a deeper level, you are united closely to God.” When we feel drawn to silent union, it is good to go there and rest in God as long as the Spirit invites.

Similar to the “Prayer of Inner Quiet” is what we might call the “Prayer of Listening.” In this prayer, the focus is on listening to God, who reveals himself in our inmost being. You listen at the core of your being to the deepest voice of all, the voice of God and of the Spirit. Thomas Merton describes this kind of prayer as “finding one’s deepest center, awakening the profound depths of our being in the presence of God, who is the source of our being and life.”


A Prayer of Silent Union With God

You may find it rewarding to try this simple prayer exercise:

Just sit down and, keeping your back straight but free, begin quieting your mind and your body by taking a few relaxing, deep breaths. Close your eyes if you wish. Center your awareness on the silent and infinite presence of God within your heart.

Let the Spirit lead you beyond the noisy world of space and time and into the silent realm where God dwells as the source and ground of your being. Center your attention on that hushed point within you where the human touches the divine, where the branch (you) intersects with Jesus, the vine—where you and God are one and dwell in each other.

Let yourself sink into the silent immensity of God. Simply let your prayer be a silent being there with God. Without any need for thoughts and words, exchange quiet love with God for as long as you feel inspired to do so.

Pause and Pray from Franciscan Media


Sun, 11/29/2020 - 10:25 AM
Hello. Thank you for this post. I practice silent prayer and wonder if you are familiar with this experience: you find yourself caught up in self directed thoughts about worldly matters, your mind all full with self and the world, rushed and in a hurried momentum. At this point I find it very hard to center myself, let go of self will, self directed thoughts, and return to quiet presence with God. Do you use a sort of "returning phrase", some phrase or behavior that helps you return to quiet presence with God? If so, please share your helpful habit. Thank you and God Bless?❤️?
Mon, 06/21/2021 - 11:39 PM
Contemplative prayer or silent prayer is a skill that requires practice to perfect. At the center of it all is light, a sweet and soft focus of attention, which requires awareness!!
Mon, 01/18/2021 - 04:38 PM
A Prayer of Silent Union with God Just sit down and keep Your back straight but free Quieting your mind And quiet your body Taking some deep breaths Awareness to begin On the silent, infinite Of God’s Presence within Let the Spirit lead you The silent realm of seeing Where God dwells as the source And grounds your inner being Center your attention On the hushed point to find Within where the human Touches the divine Where the branch intersects With Jesus, the vine Where you and God are one Our dwelling to align Let yourself sink in To Gods’ immensity Simply let your prayer Be a silent, be No need for thought or word Let quiet love flow As long as you feel Inspired to do so
Sun, 02/14/2021 - 12:41 PM
I try to remember there's more than just man and God in the world; there's also angels, demons, spirits of people and animals, and so forth. I usually like to pray out loud in my car in the mornings but lately I've been worried bad spirits, demons, something could overhear my prayers and do things such as the Thursday before last, I had been praying I could work Friday to make up for all the time I've missed but that morning, I slid on some ice in the parking lot to my car and landed so hard I ended up taking the rest of the day and that whole Friday off. It made me mad that weekend and part of the week but I've been trying to remember evil or bad forces and managed to work last Friday. Can I just keep praying in my head, even though its been hard to quiet, or is there anything else I can do?
Mon, 06/21/2021 - 11:44 PM
Just be !!!
Thu, 10/21/2021 - 02:50 PM
To the person who made the comment about wondering if something can overhear your prayers and whether you can pray in your head (on 02/14/2021), I've been struggling with this fear for a long time too. All the priest's I've talked to have effectively told me or implied that it a temptation and that we need to keep praying - even if the devil could hear, it wins if you stop praying. I still struggle a lot with this intense impulse that I must not talk to God in my head, but when I don't pray I feel like something is starting to take over and control me/ my mind. Please keep praying and trust in God - He is more powerful than the devil. Push through it by persistent prayer and it feeling like you must not mentally pray fades away, but it comes back frequently. Do whatever works for you, I love the rosary, divine mercy chaplet, or try going to Eucharistic adoration, reading the gospel for strengthening. I've asked several priests about whether I need to make the words quieter, reduce the words, but they've all pretty much said not to worry about it to that level or trust in God. One Franciscan told me to try praying out loud, but he and others have assured me that there is no issue with how loud the words should be. Thank you for posting your experience, it helps me to know other Christians are struggling with this experience of attack on their interior prayer life. God bless you.

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