As I neared the top of Camelback on this morning’s hike I noticed a woman sitting in prayer on a rock outcropping overlooking the city of Phoenix. I wasn’t very close to her but I could see she was sitting with her legs crossed and her hands resting open on her knees. I have hiked Camelback hundreds of times but I had never noticed her before. Seeing her on my mountain got me thinking about what it takes to stop, be still and pray.
Stillness is a spiritual discipline and like all disciplines its purpose is to make a space in our lives for the Lord to act. Stillness is not an attitude but rather an intentional determination to make the Lord our only joy and trust that He will give us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4) Therefore, stillness is not something that happens to us it is something we do. Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) We need to be like the Psalmist who had to keep telling (commanding, reminding) his soul to bless the Lord. We put ourselves into stillness so that prayer can grow in our hearts.
The stilling of our minds, bodies, and souls is necessary for us to hear God and to know Him and ourselves.
St. John Climacus, the author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent said, “Stillness of the body is the accurate knowledge and management of one’s feelings and perception. Stillness of soul is the accurate knowledge of one’s thoughts and is an unassailable mine. Determined and brave thinking is a friend of stillness.”
The replaying of slights or arguments along with talkativeness and constant noise are some of the best ways to kill stillness. Those who have advanced in stillness say they are no longer affected by outward noise – but we need a little silence and solitude to allow stillness to have a chance. Again St. John Climacus said, “close the door of the cell to your body, the door of your tongue to talk, and the gate within to evil spirits.” I have a dear friend who uses her bedroom closet for stillness. Me? I hope that gal is running late tomorrow because I am headed to her prayer perch. (Photo: Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain)