When Nothing Happens

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Friends who are new to faith often ask me, “What happens if there’s no answer when you pray?”

Similarly, J. David Muyskens talks about the times when Centering Prayer is difficult and even dull, asking if these moments are all for nothing. The art of spiritual discipline, however, is created precisely for these moments, and the aim of such intentional prayer and meditation, is communion, harmony, or the relationship we desire with God, rather then the results or the expectations we ourselves seek in life.

As Muyskens puts it,

And, of course, it is not true that nothing happens. Nothing happens according to my agenda. Actually, in Centering Prayer I have consented to yield to God’s agenda. Perhaps in God’s agenda I am being given some rest. Perhaps in God’s agenda I am just to be. Perhaps God’s agenda is to love me. Maybe I am getting in best when nothing happens. Maybe I am on to something when there is no reward for me. Maybe the closest I can be to awareness of holy is just to be with the mysterious attraction that the Creator put in me. And, maybe when I don’t even sense that, still the transforming work of Christ goes on, unknown to me. Maybe that’s just the point: no effort on my part, only divine action.

Sacred Breath, p. 87

It is my experience that we human beings rarely know what we feel or need, and so we wander toward God and we seek answers to our questions, our prayers, and our dilemmas. My own pleas usually begin with my circumstances, with ideas, people, and processes, but those thoughts that cloud my head are merely distractions from the communion God seeks with me. Those thoughts are even distractions from the harmony, I myself, seek with God.

The point is to trust God enough to leave God “the thoughts, the stuff,” and continue to enter into communion with God, simply because we desire to be in God’s presence. Now that act, then of practicing prayer in this way, is not “nothing,” but quite something.

It’s quite something because it begins with God and not with ourselves, and it keeps us coming back despite the challenges of life itself, our circumstances, and our questions.

I’m not saying the questions aren’t important, but they pale in comparison to what it means to know God and be known by God.

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