A phrase from a reading by St Augustine in today’s Liturgy of the Hours jumped out at me, which doesn’t happen too often at 4:30 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to pray the Office of Readings, one of the “hours” in the church’s daily prayer, and I prayed this particular reading from Augustine entitled, “The Easter Alleluia.” The phrase in this reading that awakened me to give praise to God is, “God’s ears hear all our thoughts.” Very simple but beautiful and eye opening so early in the morning.
The reality that God “hears,” speaks to God’s essence as a personal “presence” within each of us, who hears ALL our thoughts, the things we are silently saying that no one can “hear” but God. If only we can become more and more aware of this deeply personal God hearing what we say within.
This is what prayer is all about. The more we become aware of God “hearing” all our inner conversations, the more likely we will become aware of those horrible thoughts we have been saying to ourselves that are demeaning and suffocating. God hears these endless “tapes “ we learned so early in life through wounded experiences in the family or at school. We keep playing the same takes over and over. Our loving God is sad at so much of the things we say about ourselves and he wants to free us from them.
As we become more aware of these tapes, we can gradually learn to stop them and erase their message. We can listen to ourselves as God listens to our inner voice, and begin to hear ourselves saying things that are beautiful about the people we are cooking for, the neighbor next door, the stranger standing in front of us at the grocery store. At every moment, we are thinking and saying something in the silence of our hearts. Prayer surfaces the negative thoughts so that they can be replaced by thoughts rooted in the gospel call to love and forgive.
To become more aware of God listening and hearing is not meant to invoke fear or paranoia but to change the message, if need be. If we are speaking thoughts of judgment or jealousy, we acknowledge them and let them go. We change the message to allow these negative thoughts to evaporate. This is the essence of prayer: letting God in on all our inner dialogues, for we have the freedom and power to shut God out, blocking and chance at transformation. Prayer opens us up to reflecting on the beauty of God “hearing” all of our thoughts.
Prayer begins to deepen in this awareness of our God, who is so deeply personal and loving. But thus prayer, if it is going to deepen, means we must learn and discipline ourselves to STOP talking.... and LISTEN to what God has to say. Prayer is the dance of the Spirit in which we not only speak to God, but we allow God to speak to us. Mystical prayer is nothing less than allowing God to do the speaking so we can “hear” what he is trying tell us. The more aware you become, the more the mystic in you will be given life and breath.