You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
Lent calls us to focus on three things: prayer, fasting and alms-giving. Leaving the other two aside for this week let us concentrate on prayer.
Like many people of my age my hearing has deteriorated over the years so that I now wear hearing aids to assist me. The immediate effect is quite miraculous as everything sounds much clearer. In a one-to–one situation I can hear and communicate just as before. However the difficulty arises in a crowded situation since the microphones dutifully magnify any and every sound they pick up. The result is a wall of sound from which one person’s voice is indistinguishable from another. Sometimes with all the noise around it is tempting to take the hearing aids out and enjoy the silence once again. After all, as Thomas Merton recognized: ‘silence makes us whole if we let it. Silence helps draw together the scattered and dissipated energies of a fragmented existence.’
Everyday life is full of noise; the noise of passing traffic, the commuter train, the office quarrels and politics, children screaming for attention. Sometimes we feel like clamping our hands over our ears and shouting “Just be quiet will you! I can’t think with all this noise!”
Even so as the psalmist reminds us we need to "Be still and acknowledge that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Sometimes it can be difficult to find that quiet place yet as Henri Nouwens reminds us: ‘It is important to keep a still place in the "marketplace." This still place is where God can dwell and speak to us.’ So often when we find that quiet place we rattle through the well known prayers and think that is enough; but it is not. Prayer entails speaking to God, certainly, ‘real’ speaking, from the heart. But prayer is essentially a conversation and in any meaningful conversation there must be a time of silence; a time to listen to what God has to say to us. Unless we listen, how will we know what comfort He has to offer us in our times of distress, what encouragement in our times of difficulty, what mission He has for us? Ah, is that why we prefer not to listen? Are we afraid of what God will ask of us? If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24. We all know where that led! Yet if we do not listen we will not hear Him say “I love you. I will never leave you or forsake you.” How wonderful is that? However hard the journey, whatever task God has for us He will walk with us, we are not alone.
Seven times in the New Testament God says ‘He that hath an ear let him hear.’ To hear what God has to say to us requires that we listen. We do not need hearing aids to listen to the small still voice of God.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years