One of the aspects of strength training that I really enjoy is executing a heavy barbell or kettlebell lift with careful, thoughtful, methodical precision. You are interiorly focused, especially if the weight you are lifting is near your maximum effort. You are not talking or laughing or thinking about what you have to do later that day. For that moment, you are laser-focused on the lift. You apply patient perseverance and trust your body to make a go at cracking the bar off the floor or heaving weight overhead.
Thinking, feeling, moving mindfully, and with perfect technique can be challenging especially if you haven’t developed an interior focus. New students often comment that the hardest part of lifting weights is the ability to think, feel and concentrate without distraction.
It can be like that in our prayer life as well. We might not be used to sitting in silence, interiorly focused, and waiting patiently for God to speak to us in our hearts. If we are able to quiet the mind, and ease out distractions, speaking to God and listening can be a transformative time of prayer.
Yet for many of us, that silent interior focus can be elusive.
So when I heard that Robert Cardinal Sarah, with Nicolas Diat, had written a book about silence, I felt drawn to it immediately. While I seek silence to pray, I often fight restlessness, so I sought inspiration and insight from Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence. A sample:
“Without the moorings of silence, life is a depressing movement, a puny little boat, ceaselessly tossed by the violence of the waves. Silence is the outer wall that we must build in order to protect an interior ediface.” (pg. 68, paragraph 112)
This topic of silence and deeper interior focus is critical to a strong contemplative prayer life to grow closer to our Lord and illuminate God’s will for our lives.
You probably agree that spending time in silence is counter-cultural; more than ever it can be challenging to find silence even in our own homes. Cardinal Sarah refers to this as the dictatorship of noise.
Back to our lifting example … when we lift heavy weights, the muscle fibers in our bodies change, grow and and over time we become physically stronger. We may not see the changes right away, but we know it’s happening as we progress to heavier weights.
Similarly, our time in prayerful silence transforms our hearts even when we don't immediately see changes or feel any different. We trust that God’s grace is at work in us and that over time a strong interior prayer life will yield sweet fruit in our lives.