Two weeks ago I began a series on whether we should sit quietly during prayer. Part 1 talked about the false silence of Centering Prayer. Part 2 talked about Teresa of Avila’s teaching on prayer and silence. Today I’d like to talk briefly about the silence of detachment.
If we want God to enter our lives in a significant way, we must make room for Him. He never forces Himself on anyone. Counterfeit spiritual silence can exist alongside mortal sin. But sin is incompatible with union with God. The writer to the Hebrews urges us:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)
Notice, we have two types of burdens to get rid of, sin and “every weight.” To grow closer to God, we must first work to avoid mortal sin and its near occasion. Then we tackle venial sin and its occasion. But even when we are doing our best to avoid venial sin, we still have “stuff” in between us and God.
Is your heart full of clutter?
Think of your heart as an attic. If you invite God to dine with you there, how much stuff do you have to remove first? You must make room for a table and chairs, and make a path to walk in. And then, you’ll want to get rid of all the junk that might embarrass you before your Divine Guest.
My kids often complain when we have to clean the house to prepare for guests. I tell them that having a clean house is a sign that we honor our guests. The same is true with God.
Now, of course, there are some “messes” that are so bad only God Himself can remove them, some stains He must scrub out. But if we want His help, we must do our part.
Teresa of Avila writes:
The whole point is that we should give ourselves to Him with complete determination, and we should empty the soul in such a way that He can restore things there or take them away as though it were His own property… He doesn’t give Himself completely until we give ourselves completely.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 28, 12)
The key, then, to the silence that is necessary for union with God is not a lack of thoughts, but a lack of attachment to anything other than God.
Who can argue that it is usually easier to pray when we are not preoccupied with our worries, duties, and possessions? When I am continually distracted by the same thing in prayer, I ask myself whether I have surrendered it to God. If He is truly in charge of it, then I need not worry about it. Sometimes I imagine myself laying certain cares at our Lord’s feet as I begin to pray. Then I can (theoretically) focus on Him.
The silence of detachment takes hard work–usually years of it. But if we “look to Jesus,” we will know that the goal is worth the effort.
10 thoughts on “The silence of detachment (Part 3 of 3)”
Beautifully said and much needed!
I will be much more aware of this: “When I am continually distracted by the same thing in prayer, I ask myself whether I have surrendered it to God.” I, too, try to lay my burdens at His feet before prayer.
I picked up your book again last night to read over my highlights…I really needed that and I will continue to pick it up over the next week. NEED it this week!
Have a grace filled weekend.
That means you need my prayers. And you’ve got them. Blessings and peace.
Connie, I am always heartened after reading your posts because you write on spiritual subjects with such clarity that I always wonder, “This is so perfectly clear, now why didn’t I *get* this before?” Lol. I have been finding your posts on prayer very helpful!
Well, if it appears to you I’ve made a mistake anywhere, let me know. I’m glad you find it so helpful. I’m just doing the best I can with prayer.
Hello Connie, I have just begun reading your post. They teach lessons that create more questions. I hope as you continue to share your thoughts the questions in my mind will be less and less. Thank you.
Hi, Rudolfo. I try to make each post cover just a small area, so that people aren’t overwhelmed. Not everything is so deep as this last series has been. Please feel free to look around at some of the older posts too. And if you have questions about a specific point, don’t be afraid to ask in the combox. If I can’t answer it, maybe another reader can.
“To reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing…
For to go from all to the all
you must deny yourself of all in all…
In this nakedness the spirit finds
its quietude and rest.”
– St. John of the Cross
This has been an excellent series, very insightful and informative. Thank you.
Thanks, Susan. Good to hear from you.