by Rev. Cindy Senarighi RN
Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.
Kings 19:11-12 The Message
“Let us be silent so we may hear the whispers of God.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the most sought-after experiences for people of faith is hearing the voice of God. Our own distractibility is one obstacle to our ability to detect God attempting to engage us in conversation. We have become adept multi-taskers, but the most difficult barrier for most of us is our inability to turn down or tune out those incessant, yappy little voices inside our head. While this is not easy, it is true that with practice, in prayer and meditation, we can dial down our busy thoughts and access the sacred silence into which God speaks.
This time of year many people form an intention to increase time spent in contemplative practices, such as prayer and meditation. Prayer is commonly understood to mean speaking to God, while meditation can be understood as listening for God’s response. For most people meditation is the more difficult of the two— and the one that requires practice. A favorite yogi once observed that telling people to close down their thoughts is like saying “pink elephant” three times: we become laser-focused on the very thing we want to let go of. When our thoughts spiral, repetition of a sacred word or mantra can help bring us back to the moment. Practiced with breath, a repeated sacred word encourages silence and increases our ability to hear God. As Rumi, the great poet-mystic, reminds us, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words, listen.”
Choosing a sacred word may in some sense be considered a work of art. One must “try it on” to see whether it both connects us and opens us to God. There are many possible sacred words from which to choose, but if you don’t have one in mind you might try maranatha. Derived from Aramaic (the language of Jesus), it translates to “Come, Lord.” Maranatha, combined with breath, becomes a sacred invitation to be still and listen for the quiet presence of God—for the God whisper.