Over the years, I’ve discovered something about drawing closer to God: it helps to practice inward silence in a place of silence. For me, that can happen in a quiet room in my house, in the Adoration chapel, or even on the shore of a peaceful lake.
Listening for His Voice. My practice of being still and listening to God started after I invited the Holy Spirit into my life. Since then I usually begin my daily prayer time by calling to mind the desires of my heart: to know God and to do his will. Then, I wait . . . in silence. The silence, and the pause, create an opening in my heart to hear what God wants to say to me.
Sitting quietly with God, I have felt deeply loved and accepted, as if he were saying to me, “I love you, Jim. Your presence here with me is precious.” When I have been anxious, he has comforted me with thoughts that arise seemingly from nowhere: “I am watching over your relationships and responsibilities, Jim.” I record what comes to mind in my prayer journal because whatever I don’t write down, I just forget! So now I have notebooks filled with examples of how the Lord speaks and moves within me.
I remember asking God for practical guidance with my job duties early in my career as a salesman. When I felt frustrated, I would go to a nearby church and pray in silence, asking God to guide me so that I could better support my family. As I turned to him, Jesus began to open doors of opportunity. My boss—aware that I was praying—was as grateful as I was.
Conversing in Silence. Now that I am retired, my prayer time has expanded, and so has my heart. I have discovered the power of silence in the Adoration chapel, where I go every day to pray. Near to the Blessed Sacrament, I pray the Stations of the Cross and thank God for the many ways he has loved me. Then in the quiet, I listen to him.
Through these quiet times, we have developed a true friendship. Some of the most real moments are when I’m tired, because I see how patient the Lord is in response to my distraction and boredom in his presence. One evening, I sat in such a state, waiting for my Adoration hour to end. Sleepily I opened my Bible to these words of David: “On the day I cried out, you answered; you strengthened my spirit. . . . The Lord is with me to the end” (Psalm 138:3, 8).
I knew that God had seen how much I wanted to be with him, despite my being tired. The Lord wanted me to know that he was with me in that. I didn’t have to be perfect; he would fill in the blanks and take care of the rest.
Guided to Love My Neighbors. One day during my time of waiting and listening in Adoration, I felt a nudge from God to invite our neighbors over for a meal. I came home and told my wife, Norma, and we were both excited. We had been wanting to build community within our neighborhood but weren’t sure how to get going. God knew what to do, though.
I received more guidance on this topic recently, after I asked the Lord, “Is there anything you want to tell me today?” Right away I felt inspired to read Psalm 23: “He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul” (verses 2-3, NIV). I thought I could picture the peacefulness described by the verse, but soon I actually experienced it.
I was sitting on the shore of a lake, and it was surprisingly quiet. There were no boat engines revving, no construction happening, and no animals calling. This silence gave the Lord a doorway to my heart. After some time, I heard God say in my heart, “Reach out to the people in your neighborhood. Be a bridge that brings my love to them.” I knew exactly the neighbors and friends we were to bring into our lives. I also felt strength to begin reaching out, which was a grace.
Time: A Priceless Offering. I have learned that without a quiet, focused daily prayer time, I lose my ability to be at peace, to be still and listen. But when I do pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help me, I feel mysteriously prepared for whatever comes my way during the day. Offering my time to listen to the Lord in silence brings a payoff that can’t be measured. He pours his love into my heart, and nothing on earth can take it away.
Jim Cahill and his wife, Norma, live in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Take One Step Closer to Jesus
Praying in silence, as Jim does, is just one of many steps you can take to hear Jesus’ voice more clearly and radiate his love more abundantly. You can learn about more habits that will strengthen you as a follower of Christ in Nextstep, a new book from The Evangelical Catholic.
As you make Nextstep part of your faith journey individually or with a group of Catholics, you will find inspiring examples and teachings to prepare you to draw more deeply from the wells of prayer, fellowship, the Eucharist, Scripture, and repentance. Drawing personal stories from Catholics, the book offers time-tested ways of growing in discipleship that will help you embrace whatever step God inspires you to take next.
You can learn more about forming missionary disciples through parish small groups at www.evangelicalcatholic.org. Nextstep: Volume 1 (softcover, 144 pp) is available at wau.org and amazon.com