Praying Without Words
We Are Always Praying
As a communications major in college, one of the first things I studied was theory. One theory by a noted philosopher in the field is that “one cannot not communicate.”
Take a moment for that double negative to sink in. In the same way, one cannot not pray.
Just as when we are silent, we are still sending a message, I’ve learned that when we are not speaking, we are still praying. Our prayers are as constant and fruitful as our thoughts.
As scripture reminds us, “Before they call, I will answer. While they yet speak, I will have heard them” (Isaiah 65:24).
Embracing the Silence
Many people believe prayers must be wordy, loud, and beseeching for God to hear them. When I was young, I listened with curiosity as preachers and other adults raised their voices to God to give them this or change that. I could never bring myself to pray in that way. I somehow knew that we do not need to utter a word for our prayers to be heard.
My mother taught me to say grace before every meal. It was rare that she started eating before she has given thanks to God and for the hands that prepared the meal. When she forgot to say grace, I reminded her she had already prayed without uttering a word.
I put my heart into believing in a restoration of peace and joy, which has happened not just once but again and again, reassuring me that one cannot not pray.
One of my earliest experiences praying in silence followed the death of my 2-year-old son, now more than four decades ago. For a time, I was utterly speechless as I struggled to find words to ease my sorrow. I would sit in silence for what seemed like hours, waiting, and hoping for answers.
Without realizing it, I was following the steps that Jesus laid out when the disciples asked him how to pray. “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:6-8).
Empowering Our Prayers
Today I consciously begin my daily prayer time by centering on my breathing to quiet my busy mind and relax my body. I close my eyes and repeat one of the affirmations that help ground me, such as: I am poised and centered in the Christ mind, and nothing disturbs the deep, calm peace of my soul.
I continue to breathe deeply as I begin to feel relaxed and centered. Following the natural rise and fall of my breath, I sit quietly and listen. When thoughts invade my peace, I give them a gentle nod and return my attention to my breathing until I feel poised and centered again. I am now in my inner room with the door closed to all outer distractions. Here is where I listen and I wait in the Silence.
When I feel ready, I return my attention to my breathing, open my eyes, and express gratitude for this precious time of sacred communion. I feel an inner knowing that my prayers have been heard, my needs have been met, and the way before me is smooth and easy.
It was during a time of silence one morning, lost in my grief, that I received an answer in the form of a scripture: “I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25).
Through Unity teachings, I have learned to pray affirmatively by acknowledging that my beliefs empower my prayers. I put my heart into believing in a restoration of peace and joy, which has happened not just once but again and again, reassuring me that one cannot not pray.
As Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). This kind of prayer is about not being married to a particular outcome, but instead, preparing the way for something better than one can even imagine.
Excerpted from The Power of Prayer booklet.