Praying with or without Words
I have had a laminated picture card in my prayer book since the 1990’s. When we received our long awaited copies of DOMINICAN PRAISE in 2005, I transferred the card to the back of my see-through protective cover, and it has been there ever since. Given to me by a friend sister artist, I especially like its colors and design, but have not given much thought to the quote printed on it until the other day.
It reads: “PRAYER is not so much about talking to or addressing God, but rather about deepening our awareness that GOD—the Breath of Life present throughout the universe—comes to visible expression in us.” [author undecipherable]
That day for some reason, it held my attention and stayed on the periphery of my mind for several days, inspiring me to review the evolution of my own personal prayer over the years.
As a young Sister and for several years, I wrote out my prayer as a monologue or dialogue in a journal, sharing all my troubles, concerns, joys and everyday happenings with God as with a best friend/Divine Counselor. It started as a way for me to stay awake and focused during my personal prayer time. Gradually my prayer with many words led to more frequent silent pauses of insight, appreciation, awe, and longer periods of wordless contemplation.
Praying without words made me wonder if I was praying at all; I was so used to using words. But my spiritual director encouraged me to trust my wordless heart prayer as much as my mind’s prayer of many words.
Our daily Common Liturgical Prayer–Mass and Liturgy of the Hours—uses hymns, psalms, prayers, readings; along with signs, symbols and actions—to express and celebrate Christ, our faith and reality as Church, and to draw us into awareness of God, into communion, transformation, silent adoration.
On Saturday, April 14, as our Mission Group meeting opening prayer, Mary Otho, OP, led all of us assembled in a time of contemplative prayer. Inviting us to quiet ourselves and enter our “inner room” where we come into God’s Presence, she then used the triple ringing of a gong to signal the beginning and end of 10 minutes of “prayer without words.” Slowly repeating “I AM,” (God’s name and ours) helped me quiet my busy mind, and call me back to silent presence when distracted. Gradually the “I” dropped off to simply “AM.” When the gong sounded to end the prayer time, it seemed a surprisingly short 10 minutes.
Surrounded by 80+ other Dominican Sisters of Peace united in silent wordless prayer, was peaceful and sacred–prayer “not so much talking to or addressing God, but rather deepening our awareness that God—the Breath of Life present throughout the universe—comes to visible expression in us.” Word made flesh. Body of Christ. That is what it’s all about. My card has been waiting all these years for me to discover its message!
Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates, “radically open to ongoing conversion into the peace of Christ, commit ourselves to be women [and men] of peace who: study, contemplate, and preach God’s revelation discovered in the unfolding mystery of creation and in Sacred Scripture.” — 1st Chapter Commitment, 2009 and 2015
How do you discover God’s revelation?