What is prayer?…

What is prayer?

I make a list:

Begging/pleading/cutting deals
Fruitless whining and puling

There the list breaks off; I had found my word. Prayer only looks like an act of language; fundamentally it is a position, a placement of oneself. Focus. Get there, and all that’s left to say is the words. They come: from ancient times … from the surprisingly eloquent heart … from the gush and chatter of the day’s detail longing to be rendered.

So what is silence?

Silence speaks, the contemplatives say. But really, I think, silence sorts. An ordering instinct sends people into the hush where the voice can be heard. This is the sorting intelligence of poetry, marked by the unbroken certainty of rhythm, perfect pitch, the placing of things in right order as in metrical form. Not rigid categories, but the recognition of a shape always there but ordinarily obscured by — by what? By noise, which is ourselves trying to do the sorting in an order that may be a heroic effort but is bound to be a fantasy.
~ Patricia Hampl, “Virgin Time”

From the transcript of On Being with Krista Tippett’s 2009 show Approaching Prayer.

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