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When you use words to pray, you’re really using them for your own convenience. They aren’t needed, but you don’t understand how superfluous they are because you’re so used to thinking of yourself as a physical being.
Your body, your brain, and your carnal emotions are all part of a temporary casing that houses the “real” you. You are a spirit being. You are your soul. When you die, YOU will go on to eternity—your physical earthsuit will not. It will be rather like a pilot ejecting from a crashing plane. The plane is not the pilot, but the plane responds to what the pilot does while he is inside of it. So also, your body responds to the activities of your soul when you consciously connect the two. But very often, your soul and your body are running off in two separate directions and you are only aware of your body.
THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER
Your soul is the part of you that communicates to God. The words you form in your brain are actually a delayed broadcast of what you’ve already said with your soul. This means that when you pray to God using words, you’re really saying everything to Him twice.
You and God are spirit beings (although He is far more complex than you are). Spirits do not use verbal words to communicate. They have a much more efficient language—one without any limitations. When your spirit says something to God, it never struggles to say what it really means. You only think you struggle to find the right words in prayer because your brain struggles to translate spiritual thoughts into a verbal language.
It is often impossible to accurately translate your spirit’s prayers into verbal words. It’s rather like trying to translate poetry from one language to another. What starts off as a beautiful, rhythmic verse ends up sounding choppy and awkward. This is because all verbal languages are limited by grammar and definition. The English language has only one word for “love,” whereas Latin has many different words that all describe various nuances of love. An English speaker says, “I love God” and “I love pizza.” Of course we aren’t talking about the same kind of love, but we’re stuck using the same word because that’s how our language is set up. Ancient Latin speakers didn’t have this problem. Their word for romantic love was different than their word for brotherly love, and so on. A Latin speaker could say “I love her” and just his choice of words would tell us if he was talking about a friend, a pet, or a spouse. In English, when someone says “I love her”, we have to ask for more information before we can understand what they’re trying to say.
Every verbal language has severe limitations. One language might be better at talking about love, but then it will be poor when it comes to talking about something else. These verbal limitations can make praying with words very frustrating when you’re really trying to share your heart with God. Often you won’t feel satisfied with any of the words your language offers you. None of them will feel like a good match to what you’re feeling in your soul. This is when you need to stop and remember that prayer is a spiritual activity.
Have you ever been standing in the room with a friend when something awkward happens? As soon as your eyes meet, you both know exactly what you’re thinking. This is how spiritual language works. It is instant. Suppose you want to say, “I really love You, Lord”. Snap your fingers together: that’s how long it takes your spirit to say those five words. Now suppose you want to say something longer, like: “I’m sorry about ignoring Your conviction yesterday. I knew what You wanted me to do and I was too chicken to do it. I’m sorry, Lord. I wish I wasn’t so gutless. Will I ever get better?” Snap your fingers together: that’s how long it takes your spirit to say all that to God. Spiritual language is instant. When you pray, your soul beams all of its feelings, concerns and desires at God in one swift motion. It’s like instant messaging with someone on the other side of the world.
By the time you feel a conscious desire to say something to God, your soul has already said it and He has already answered. But because you are unaware of this, you will sit there fumbling about for the right words in your brain. Your verbal prayer will be merely a repeat of what your soul has already said, and since verbal languages are so limiting, your second prayer will probably be a pretty poor summary of what your soul actually said. Happily, God never misses out because He listens to our souls.
The point of engaging in wordless prayers is to move past the distraction and limitation of trying to translate soul thoughts into verbal sentences. There are many theories about how to go about wordless praying and what is actually accomplished when we engage in this kind of communication. We must be careful not to veer off into strange mysticism. The goal in wordless praying is not to have some emotional rush or to transcend to other levels of consciousness. We are simply trying to get more in touch with something we are already doing. Our souls are always communicating to God and He is always communicating to us. We practice wordless praying in order to try and become more aware of these communications.
HOW TO PRAY WITHOUT WORDS – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE
First, find a place where you can focus without a bunch of outside distraction. If you can’t find quiet, then turn on some white noise (like soft music or a fountain) in order to tune out the sounds around you.
Begin your prayer session by focusing on these two truths:
1. God knows and understands you far better than you understand yourself.
2. He is always with you.
If God knows you so well, you obviously don’t need to try and explain yourself to Him. Close your eyes and picture God sitting right beside you. Don’t try to say anything to Him. Instead, think about how He already knows everything about you. He completely understands how you feel about Him. He knows what you want in your relationship with Him. He understands who you are and who you wish you could be. He shares all your memories and He knows all of the secret things that you would never share with another human. He loves you just as you are and He wants you to have a personal bond with Him.
Dwelling on how well you are known helps free you up from the tension of trying to express yourself to God. Wordless praying focuses on communing with God and enjoying the personal bond that exists between you. The goal is to be, not do. It’s like a married couple relaxing in each other’s arms in bed, enjoying each other’s company. This isn’t the time to bring up specific questions or fears. First, just soak in the reality that your Creator is sitting right there with you, and He completely understands you. This is a faith driven activity. You might not “feel” any sense of God being with you, but feelings do not define truth. We thrive in the faith by standing on the things God has told us regardless of what our emotions are doing.
The goal of this first phase is to help you relax and tune into the fact that you do not need words to communicate with God. Your bond with Him goes far beyond verbal communication. He is the One sustaining your very existence. He is the One holding the molecules of your body together. God’s care of you is extremely intimate. His provision for you never stops. These are the truths you want dwell on before going on to the next phase.
Now it’s time to deal with any pressing concerns you might have. Still focusing on the fact that God knows you inside and out, think about any subjects that you’re currently feeling stressed about. Maybe you’re having problems at work. Instead of trying to explain your problems using words, focus on how God already understands what is going on. Focus on His limitless power and perfect wisdom. Focus on how He created the whole universe and is singlehandedly coordinating billions of lives. Is He big enough to handle your problems? Of course He is. Focus on the fact that He is ALWAYS with you. Focus on how much He cares about you. Focusing on God puts your problems in perspective: you realize that things do not happen to you at random, but that God has brought problems into your life for positive spiritual reasons. Everything He puts you through has the potential to strengthen your personal bond with Him.
In wordless prayer, the goal is to focus so intently on God that everything else fades into the background. In life, you experience this kind of focus whenever some worry is heavily pressing on your mind—whatever that worry is, it looms so large in your brain that you have a hard time concentrating on anything else. This is the position you want to get into with God. Sometimes it’s possible, other times your brain will be so busy and scattered that you’ll have to give up and try again at a different time.
By now you’ll have spent a lot of time thinking about who God is and how personal His interest is in you. This third phase is about adoring God. Your pressing concerns have been put in perspective and temporarily set aside. In this third phase, you want to focus on the fact that God is the only One who truly matters in your life. Your very existence depends on Him. He created you for His own benefit. You were brought into being to be a source of joy to your Creator. You were created with the ability to receive love from Him and to form a complex relationship with Him. God loves interacting with you. He’s so huge, and you’re so small and frail, yet He finds the bond between you to be very exciting. In this third phase, you’re simply marveling at God as one might marvel at a breathtaking sunset. Think about all of the wonderful things He’s created. Think about how huge and brilliant He must be to construct a whole universe out of nothing, yet still He is sitting right there beside you. Our God is an extremely Personal Being. He is always near to us, no matter what our emotions tell us. In this third phase, your focus is on simply enjoying who God is. God loves it when His creatures delight in Him.
Wordless prayer is an activity that God needs to lead. If you try it and don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, don’t worry about it. You’re not a “lesser” Christian because you can’t sit around meditating on God. What you want to avoid is confusing soul communion with emotional rushes.
We are spiritual beings. Our primary language is a spiritual language. Our souls are always communicating with God whether we are mentally aware of it or not. The point of wordless prayer is to get more in touch with our true identity as spirit beings who were created to commune with our nonhuman Creator. By getting away from the distraction of verbal language, we try to increase our awareness of our own spirituality. Normally, we go through life primarily focused on our physical bodies and physical brains with very little awareness of our souls. Ideally, we get to the point where this is reversed: we become primarily focused on our souls being in constant communion with God, and we spend a lot less time thinking about our physical “earthsuits.”
The advantage of wordless prayer is that it helps us realize how rich and perfect our communication with God really is. Our souls never fail to express to Him exactly how they are feeling, because He’s made spiritual communication such a simple affair. The more we understand this, the less stressed and drained and unsatisfied we will feel in our verbal prayer times. So much frustration in prayer comes from a lack of really grasping how strong our communication with God really is.
Meditation, contemplative prayer, methodical prayer—there are many formal terms that try and describe the technical mechanics of wordless prayer. Avoid trying to imitate someone else’s mystical experiences. Someone else might talk about floating off into a heavenly dimension when they meditate. They might talk about seeing God face to face or having sensual experiences of His Presence. Don’t think you’re doing something wrong if you don’t have these kinds of experiences. To mature in the faith, we need to practice using our faith, and that means trusting in facts God has told us whether they “feel” true or not. God says that He loves you dearly. He says that He is always with you, and that He is intimately involved in every aspect of your life. Any mental exercise which dwells on who God is and the truths He has told us is going to be spiritually beneficial. Your focus is what is important.
Voices in Your Mind