“I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2
How is it with your soul?
Have you stilled and quieted your soul lately? Can you even imagine what that’s like?
I confess that often my time with God is anything but quiet.
Psalm 131 paints a beautiful picture of a still and quiet soul—a weaned child with its mother. A satisfied baby, content and well fed–resting in the mother’s embrace.
Our soul yearns for it.
The Good Shepherd knows we need it.
“He leads me beside quiet water, he restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-2
But even though he shows us the way to quiet waters, often we don’t follow. We just fret with him instead. Like a hungry baby crying out for milk.
Sometimes my prayers stir up my soul more than they still my soul. Instead of finding quiet waters, the waves of worry are fed with the wind of my words to God.
I stir up my soul with anxious prayer requests. I solicit solutions to my problems—and sometimes get stuck thinking about the problems.
Recently, when I felt like my prayers had too many petitions and not enough peace, I returned to a spiritual practice that I had neglected lately—the Centering Prayer.
The Centering Prayer is simply spending time with the Heavenly Father in quiet. It’s a way to “still and quiet the soul”. It quiets the external noises, and it’s a discipline to let go of the noises on the inside.
Sometimes I spend a lot of my time “letting go” because I’m constantly bombarded with thoughts. But that’s okay. It’s a chance to practice letting go in God’s presence and it slowly becomes a natural process throughout the day.
When practicing the Centering Prayer, whenever a thought comes to mind, you just let it go. You can use a short word or phrase to release the thought. I say “Heavenly Father.” It reminds me of who I’m spending time with. When I realize I’m chasing a trail of thoughts, the words “Heavenly Father” lets them go.
A visual that helps me grasp the Centering Prayer comes from a time when our kids were still young, but no longer infants. They were full of energy and often played outside in the heat. The neighborhood kids gathered in our yard to form two teams of whatever game was popular at the time.
Lucas, always the youngest, played hard to keep up. He relentlessly tried to run faster, throw harder, play better.
Eventually he’d escape from the activities to come inside for a sip of water.
His head was sweaty. Body tired. And the pressure to keep up frayed his nerves.
Sometimes he’d rattle off complaints the whole time he was inside. He’d want me to tell Nelson to quit cheating. Jacob threw the ball too hard. And he wanted me to tell Travis to stop bossing him around. The basketball goal was too high. Or the bases were too far apart. On the way back outside he’d mumble one more way he wanted me to fix the outside games as he shut the door behind him, sloshing water from his full cup.
But there were other times that he came inside for a glass of water when he’d stay a bit. He told me the score. Showed me his skinned knee because someone pushed him too hard. But for the most part, he was quiet.
He sat on the couch beside me. Sipped his cool cup of water.
We could see the others playing outside. But we sat. No words. I could smell his sweaty head. Feel his rapid heart beat. I heard his quick breath.
We made no strategies for changes outside. We just sat in quiet.
Eventually his heartbeat slowed. His sweaty hair dried. His panting quieted to deep rhythmic breaths. He settled.
Then, without a word, he would slip off the couch from my side and join the outside games again. He was different, though, when he went back out.
The cool water refreshed him. My company encouraged him. The quiet settled him.
Often our prayer times with the Heavenly Father look like those times when Lucas came inside for a break. We’re frazzled from the pace. We feel pressure to keep up. Things aren’t going our way.
We spend most of the time asking God to fix things. Our time with him is far from quiet. We return to the routines of life with our soul as stirred up as it was before we sat down with God.
Practicing the Centering Prayer is more like those times when Lucas came inside and just sat in quiet. It’s being still with God. Even when life outside is not still. The Centering Prayer is an invitation to quiet the soul in the presence of God. It’s that comforting silence you only experience with someone you trust. We can even rest from interacting with God, and just rest with him.
It’s following God’s instructions to the Israelites, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 It’s following Jesus’ example when he went away to a quiet place.
All parents treasure those precious moments of sitting in quiet with their child—whether he’s a satisfied newborn, a sweaty toddler, or a grown young man.
Surely God, our Heavenly Father, also treasures those times with us.
So how is it with your soul?
Does it know what it’s like to be still and quiet in the embrace of the Heavenly Father?
Try the Centering Prayer. You don’t have to spend all your time with God talking to him. Just be with him. Practice letting go.
Let him lead you beside quiet waters.
And rest with him.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret…” Psalm 37:7