Silence, Solitude and Prayer

How counter cultural can you get? We are plugged into ipods and cell phones. We pride ourselves in being well connected through facebook and internet. We claim we are just too busy to pray.

Yet, as I turned 60, I wanted to be intentional about doing something different. Henri Nouwen reflects on three spiritual practices – silence, solitude and prayer as a source of renewal and response in his book of the same title. He calls these three practices the gifts of a desert life. I decided to open these gifts on my birthday in a desert time and see what I might receive.

After taking time for a party with friends and colleagues, I escaped to a hermitage along the Kankakee River at the One Heart, One Soul retreat center. I took a bit of food, a journal for writing reflections, paints and a couple of CD’s with gentle music and escaped into solitude for 48 hours.

What a gift! I slept, ate, walked and sat for this time – alone and in quiet.

Prayer grew naturally from the actions, both prayer with words and prayer of silent breath.

I discovered in this space of quiet and solitude a sacred place of healing and revelation. I was given the opportunity to breathe, to sit and wonder, and to listen. I was given the gift of listening. What did I hear in the quiet? I heard birds singing, water flowing and wind rustling. More importantly, I heard my own heart speaking. In just 48 hours, I slowed and caught my breath and heard the voice of profound gratitude for personal healing. I heard the call of dreams for future opportunities in my personal and vocation life. I heard the still voice of God proclaiming love for me and for all of the world.

I recommend this forty-eight hour break to anyone. You don’t need to be 60. And you probably don’t need to stay in a hermitage. But taking…no, not taking, rather growing time for silence, solitude and prayer is indeed a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Perhaps just 10 minutes a day, perhaps a day a month, perhaps even longer once a year. On my 60th birthday, I learned yet again how God pours love into a desert space, and heard life speak. Thanks be to God.




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