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The voice of God within us

Of all the attitudes we bring to prayer, presence is at once one of the simplest and one of the most difficult. Buddhists call it “taming a monkey mind.” We call it the need to resist distractions. Whatever any of us call it, the effects of the condition are the same. We begin to feel far away, even alienated, from the God who seems so far away from us. However much time we put into saying our prayers and going to church, God remains more an idea than a reality. We look for God “to come.” We do not expect to find God here.

But where else would God be, if not here? And if God is here, what creates the Plexiglass between us? “God,” Scripture says, “is not in the whirlwind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire.” God, Scripture says, “is in the small still voice within.” So what is blocking us from making the journey within?

Sinking down into the self where the Spirit resides and the waters run deep is close to impossible in a culture built on noise and talk and information and advertisements and constant movement and a revolving door schedule. Silence and solitude are lightyears away from the raging list of unending activities we carry in our heads.

Even most of the praying we do is noisy. We say prayers; we seldom sit in the presence of God and wait. The very thought of simply listening for the whisper of the soft, still voice within is not only rare, it is uncomfortable these days. Shouldn’t we be doing something, our souls shout at us. Shouldn’t we be going somewhere, doing something, at least saying something holy?

But it is the voice of God within that brings calm and direction. It drains the negative energy out of the present so that we can go on, calmly aware that there is nowhere where we are alone.

This kind of prayer prepares us to feel the presence of God everywhere because we have discovered that the presence of God is within. It enables us to respond to it in waves of trust that carry us far beyond the storms of the present to the fullness of the future.

—from The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer  by Joan Chittister. (Twenty-Third Publications)