Is your heart longing for a more intimate connection with God? Silent prayer may be the next step in your faith journey.
Looking for a deep and meaningful way to encounter God in your prayer for faith and hope, but don’t know where to start?
Let me begin with a story:
I had finished cleaning up the church hall after a successful night with the teens. We had solid Praise & Worship music, powerful testimony and teaching, deep questions and conversation. I was content with the engagement and the energy the teens showed throughout the night.
But as I was packing up, I noticed Mark, one of the church’s elderly faithful regulars, quietly sitting in a church pew. There was no music, no talk, no noise to keep his attention on the Lord. He was the only one there in the silence.
He was absolutely still with a slight smile on his face. His presence was filled with a feeling of peace, with the Prince of Peace. Seeing him made me realize how, in all our energetic events trying to hook teens in, we’d never cultivated an experience of holy silence.
The first stage of praying is generally done externally and vocally – we’re taught the Our Father or intercede for our loved ones. Vocal prayers are beautiful and have a place in our daily and communal prayer life.
But is your heart longing for a more intimate connection with God?
One way is to introduce silent prayer techniques into your day. And it’s easier than it sounds – even if you have a busy, noisy life!
Let me show you how by defining authentic silent prayer, explaining the two main types (with some concrete examples of prayer styles you can try tonight), and giving an invaluable step-by-step routine you can immediately use to reduce distraction and be fully present to God.
What silent prayer is and what it’s not…
Silent prayer is more than sitting quietly. It’s a moment where your body, mind and soul stills in the awe-inspiring presence of God as your perfect Father and best friend.
We’re told to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), but what does that look like? Before I can share specific silent prayer techniques, we need to have the right understanding of what this prayer is:
Picture a couple as they say their wedding vows, a mother gazing in her newborn’s eyes, a couple married 50 years.
For a moment in time, their eyes and hearts meet and the world around them goes still.
There are no words for a love that deep.
Silent prayer is simply and profoundly being loved by God and returning that loving gaze.
When seen in that light, we shouldn’t shy away from this prayer, this communion with God, because of misconceptions or false beliefs such as:
- we don’t have enough time (when my heart’s in the right space, Jesus has given me profound revelations in my limited schedule)
- it’s beyond our ability (the silent prayer techniques I use are simple enough that my young children can use them)
- we’re not worthy enough or “it’s only for holy people” (nothing you can do can separate you from God’s love or your Father wanting to spend time with you)
- silence is boring and unnecessary (we naturally desire to spend quality time with those we love)
- it’s “not working” when we don’t hear or feel Him (often the Father is content to simply hold his child and we mistake His silent love for rejection because of past wounds)
Two signs you’re using silent prayer techniques for the wrong reasons
If authentic silent prayer is a loving gaze, then we need to be humbly aware of when we’re seeking silence for selfish reasons.
First, we enter prayer with our needs being the focus instead of connecting with God.
We show up with an internal monologue or list of complaints. Or pre-determined agendas, treating God like a genie: resentful or doubting when He doesn’t answer a prayer or trying to bargain or threaten Him with our time and love to get what we’re asking for.
We see this prayer time as a magnanimous gift to God, inviting Him into our hearts… when instead a better perspective might be that we’re a cherished guest in His.
In other words, as we’re resting in His heart, do we allow Him to truly reign in the silence: choosing when to speak, what to bring up, and when to be silent?
Secondly, we can seek silence or His Peace above the One who gives it. The silence becomes a feel-good self-hypnosis, rather than an intimate meeting with God who challenges us to purify the heart He desires to dwell in.
Sometimes, if the Father desires to heal some trauma or illuminate parenting decisions that were hurtful to my kids – it doesn’t feel very peaceful to relive those painful and humbling memories! But He knows they’re necessary for my healing and growth.
Trusting the Father with the painful and dark parts of me came from getting to know His heart in that loving gaze of silent prayer.
My trust and love for Him also grew from heartfelt dialogue – and there are many types to try in your journey.
What are the types of silent prayer?
I like to separate silent prayer into two categories: a conversation (reflection or meditation) and a loving gaze (contemplation). In both, God is active and present in the silence.
What is silent reflection prayer?
Silent reflection, also referred to as meditation, is the most common way to start with silent prayer because we have a focus.
Not to be confused with the warning sign I mentioned earlier, where our conversation is really a monologue or list of demands, this reflection involves a two-way conversation.
In meditation, we reflect on a topic as well as intentionally seek God’s response. We might have an image, Scripture verse, a memory, a message or a feeling rise up – these are all ways God speaks to us.
Some types of reflective prayer:
- Scriptural meditation (we imagine being at a scene in the Bible)
- Lectio Devina (we read, pray, meditate and contemplate slowly a specific Scripture verse)
- Examination of conscience (where did we show love or not love that day?)
- A nature walk (praising Him in creation)
- Dialoguing (where we intercede for someone or ask for God’s direction)
- Healing memories and trauma (bringing past wounds to Him for deliverance and healing)
In silent meditation, God speaks to our minds and hearts, revealing our identity and purpose through His gentle whisper (1 Kings 19: 9-13).
We can compare reflective prayer with a pregnant first-time mother. She’s thirsty for knowledge on parenting: reading all the books, listening to advice from doctors and experienced mothers around her. She wants to know how to be a good mom, how to best love and raise this child.
In the same way, whether by making an honest examination of our day or by meditating on Scripture, God wants to share His love for us, who we are and how we can best serve Him in this life. He can also use silent reflection prayer to illuminate where we need to repent and change so He can restore us to who He created us to be.
What is silent contemplative prayer?
Silent contemplation can go hand in hand with reflective prayer, but this is where the soul truly stills.
This loving gaze is a prayer of being, where God speaks to our soul. As I mentioned earlier, the earthly world falls away as two hearts meet.
It’s like that same pregnant mother’s hand resting on her womb, or later watching her sleeping newborn in awe and wonder.
She’s still, silent and full of love.
To silently contemplate is to sit with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, not because you’re looking for an answer to your own suffering (which would be a prayer of meditation), but because you want to share in His.
There’s no agenda, no problem-solving, no desire other than to be with God.
Silent contemplative prayer is to be held by our Father.
In my experience, there has been no greater sense of fullness or peace. We get a taste of Heaven.
While it takes daily practice and discipline to achieve this inner stillness, there are silent prayer techniques you can easily use to start, no matter what your lifestyle looks like.
How do you sit in silence with God?
As a busy mom of 5 with high medical and emotional needs, I’m constantly surrounded by noise. Phone notifications, music, a chatty cat, kids asking for homework help, the percolating coffee (that’s a welcome sound), and tantrums.
A while ago, I was blessed to have the house to myself for a few hours.
And I didn’t know how to handle it. I’d forgotten how to be still, how to welcome the silence.
I flitted around doing dishes, catching up on phone calls, always moving, always doing…before I realized how priceless a time it would be to pray.
So I settled down for some silent prayer – and despite my body being still, my mind kept on spinning and spinning.
We live in a drive-thru society, where immediate gratification is expected and necessary to successfully progress through our day. Noise is unrelenting (and often sought out if we have past wounds with a scary or hurtful silence, or from being alone). How often do we feel driven to fill the silence in our daily activities, let alone prayer time?
We need to re-train our bodies and minds to be still, to wait for God.
And to do this, there are some silent prayer techniques we can use to help.
Silent prayer techniques
To have a fruitful silent prayer experience, we need to commit to doing it daily – even if we are easily distracted or we find the silence uncomfortable. God can highlight many hidden wounds in what rises in His (loving) silence. Be consistent.
Choose a time each day where you have the most chance of uninterrupted silence. Find a space that is away from distraction (ie: I need to face away from my cluttered kitchen or I’m tempted to get up and clean).
Next, try these silent prayer techniques to structure your prayer time:
- Sit comfortably (but not so comfortable you’re tempted to have a nap!) and close your eyes.
- Reduce distractions (put the phone far away, keep a notepad nearby for stray thoughts).
- Breathe deeply (I was taught to inhale the Name of Jesus, exhale distracting thoughts).
- Go to an inner safe prayer space (picture a place to meet Jesus, a hug, or a loving memory).
- Wait for God to speak or to hold you. And wait until He’s done before you move on.
- Then share your day, intentions, or Scriptural reflection and listen for His response.
- Journal any revelations or feelings that rose in you during the prayer session.
- End with praising and adoring Him.
Even with a busy, noisy life, anyone, including children, can use these silent prayer techniques to intimately experience God’s love.
Silent prayer is a beautiful and transformative way to encounter God. The silent prayer techniques and different types of prayer will help you deepen your relationship with the Trinity, illuminate areas God wants to heal and bring you peace beyond your understanding.
What to do next?
Commit to a daily time and place for silent prayer and start applying the techniques today. God will use silent prayer to teach you how to fully receive His love and love in return.