Anyone who is devoted to the pursuit of prayer—real prayer and not the cotton candy Christian kind of prayer that consists of a litany of wishes and lacks any depth of thought or submission to the sanctifying hand of God—will tell you that at times it is a gut wrenching experience.
Of course, it isn’t easy to pray for one’s enemies; I find that surrendering my will to His is often even harder. But what is truly difficult to bear, at times it seems impossible, is the silence (the emphatic silence as C.S. Lewis calls it) of God, especially since that silence always comes when I am most desperate to hear His voice.
“If you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Don’t bother with any flippant answers about prayer. I’ve heard them all. And please don’t send me articles on “How to Pray So That God Will Answer” or “The 5 Tips for Hearing God’s Voice”. I’ve read them and have done everything they suggest, and yet the silence will persist.
The temptation for me during that emphatic silence is to turn my attention from God and begin to wallow in my pain and worry that God doesn’t care or that He never intends to answer. I fear such horrible things about God in that silence and then cuddle up with my self-pity as though it was a warm blanket on a cold night. Cling to that blanket long enough and it will become the noose around your neck.
There’s only one way out of that pit that I can find, and that is gratitude. Start small if you must but you must start. Thank Him for the heat in your home or the fact that your car turned on this morning. Thank Him for the good book you have to read and then move on to the bigger things: the people that you love and the ones who love you, the answers to prayer you have received, for there have been many.
Gratitude begets gratitude, and it is only the grateful who find joy.
Here’s the truth: as you practice the discipline of gratitude you will begin to see that God is there listening, providing, transforming, making a way, orchestrating all things for your good. He never stopped. You don’t need some magic trick up your sleeve to manipulate God into answering. Your loving God is there by your side, even in the silence.
Master, they say that when I seem
To be in speech with you.
Since you make no replies, it’s all a dream
—One talker aping tow.
They are half right, but not as they
Imagine; rather, I
Seek in myself the things I meat to say,
And lo! The wells are dry.
Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The Listener’s role, and through
My dead lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.
And thus you neither need reply
Nor can; thus, while we seem
Two talking, thou are One forever, and I
No dreamer, but they dream.