In Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen proclaims, “We simply need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time, time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month or whatever period of time for God and God alone.”
Of course, “this takes much discipline and risk taking,” Nouwen continues, “because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and ‘just sitting there’ and ‘doing nothing’ often disturbs us more than it helps.” However, Nouwen says, “There is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of God belongs to the core of all prayer.”1
In Sanctuary of the Soul, Richard Foster records a story that has a similar sentiment.
Anthony Bloom tells the story of an elderly woman who had been working at prayer with all her might but without ever sensing God’s presence. Wisely, the archbishop encouraged the old woman to go to her room each day and “for fifteen minutes knit before the face of God, but I forbid you to say one word of prayer. You just knit and try to enjoy the peace of your room.”
The woman received this counsel, and at first her only thought was, “O how nice. I have fifteen minutes during which I can do nothing without being guilty!” In time, however, she began to enter the silence created by her knitting. Soon, she said, “I perceived that this silence was not simply an absence of noise, but that the silence had substance. It was not absence of something but presence of something.” As she continued her daily knitting, she discovered that “at the heart of the silence there was He who is all stillness, all peace, all poise.” She had let go of her tightfisted efforts to enter God’s presence and, by doing so, discovered God’s presence already there.2
1. Henri J. M. Nouwen. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. Garden City:
Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975, p. 97.
2. Richard Foster. Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into the Meditative Heart of Prayer. IVP Books, 2011.