Where’s the mute button?

Yall, I live a loud life. At the office, I sit in a tornado of sound, with televisions blaring, newscasters loudly enunciating, breaking news teams chittering and my computer and phones endlessly dinging for attention. When big news breaks, the whole buzz breaks into a roar. 

It’s not any quieter in my head. My inner monologue runs hot, constantly collecting tasks to be completed and problems to solve. I write down both daily and big-picture to-do lists, just to dull some of the resounding. 

It’s loud in my heart, too. The Lord has given me many roles — from wife and mother to boss and confidant — and I want to fill them well. With every new interaction, I internally zip through possible responses. By the grace of God, I’ve learned not to say every single thing that bubbles up inside me, but a crush of responses still echo through my heart: quips that would crack up a 12-year-old; recent headlines I’ve read on the topic; even replays of loosely related conversations — sometimes from decades ago…. All of it, thundering through, all at once.

It’s loud, yall.

But God, hallelujah, quiets it all. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6, Jesus admonishes the crowd not to pray for self-gain. Instead of praying on street corners to be seen he tells us to “…go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” To me, that’s holy permission to close the door on everything else in the world and just rest in His presence. Curled up with the Word, I get to go to the Father with gratitude, praise, confession, pleading, lamenting and joy. On rich days, my prayers become a steady, earnest stream flowing out of my heart, a lush exchange with a Father who listens. The Word is alive and working in my life.

On drier days, when I’m distracted or caught up in myself, my prayers feel more like flimsy thought bubbles. In those moments, I pray that the Lord would draw me back to Himself, and I take heart that His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor 12) If a sincere phrase or two is all I can manage on a particular day, I’ll offer those up and count again on the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

I learned about prayer through a handful of Christian friendships. Small-group settings and Life Groups showed me how to talk to God. Sitting with those Christian sisters and brothers, learning to be quiet and focus on God, was sweet and instructive. 

I’m still exploring new ways to pray. I recently attended a Kingdom Prayer gathering at GRC where two circles of congregants slowly worked through the Lord’s Prayer, turning over each verse with quiet, personal reflection.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.

(Lord, I lift praise to you because you are the one true God, the creator.)

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

(Mold my heart, Lord. Give me joy in doing your will, in reaching out to those who don’t yet know you.)

Give us today, our daily bread.

(So many of our church friends have been struggling with health issues, Lord. We ask for physical healing and strengthening of their faith through those challenges.)

And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

(Remind me of how much I’ve been forgiven. Soften my heart, I pray.)

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

(Hold me fast, Lord, on the narrow road. I can’t get anywhere on my own.)

Amen.

   

Elisabeth Cordova and her husband, John, joined GRC in 2017 and help oversee the meals ministry. She’s the loud one.