We have all experienced the inexplicable silence of God in the face of desperate pleas.
Prayer is a dialogue with God, “a close sharing between friends,” as St. Teresa of Ávila puts it. We pour out our hearts to God, and we rely on God to answer. Our very existence literally depends on God’s Word, through whom “all things came to be” (John 1:3). So what are we to do when our most urgent petitions receive no reply? How do we pray when God remains silent?
The silence of God is dreadful. In the Old Testament, the worst thing that could happen to Israel was to experience the silence of God. The prophet Amos warns of a famine — “Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Without the word of God, we wither.
We have all experienced the inexplicable silence of God in the face of desperate pleas: Why so much hunger, war, blood and cruelty? Why do the wicked prosper? Why do my loved ones suffer? God, why won’t you answer? Are you even listening?
God’s silence can be excruciating, but we must be prepared for it. How?
When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” he first taught them the Lord’s Prayer, and then he told them this parable:
“Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.” (Luke 11:5-8)
The lesson is clear: Just keep praying.
There are times when the silence of God tempts us to give up praying in despair. In these moments, we must look to the cross, where Jesus himself experienced the silence of his Father and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
This is a bitter complaint, yes, but it is a prayer of complaint. Even at the brink of death, in the world’s darkest hour, Jesus continued to call on his Father in prayer, as he had throughout his life. Which is why, as Luke tells us, Jesus could say with his last breath, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
May the silence of God enkindle your faith so you may confidently pray, “Father, into your hands I commend my life.”
Be passionate about our faith!
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - January/February 2020