God’s grace and peace to you, beloved in Christ. 

As I write these words to you on a(nother) snowy morning, I am almost one month returned from blessed months of sabbatical leave. It was a time for writing, for praying, for silent contemplative labor, and for learning.

My sabbatical months were structured so that most days had space to pray with no clock. To pray for as long as I was moved to be in prayer. And, on many days, to write or study or take up silent contemplative labor and then to be in prayer all over again.

I’m drawn to the expression “being in prayer”. Sometimes I say prayers. Sometimes I read prayers. And, in this season of life, I am more often simply being in prayer.

St. Teresa of Calcutta was once asked by a journalist how she prayed. She replied, “I just listen.”  The journalist’s follow-up question was, “Then what does God do?” “God just listens, too.”

I am mindful of what a precious luxury those hours were. I am grateful to you for the luxury of those hours. I am also mindful that if I am going to be one among us who encourages listening with God, I need to be listening with God, too.

It’s no secret to me or to those who know me that I’m slow. I like to drive just a bit under the speed limit (which is, after all, the limit). When you honk and pass me, thank you for remembering to wave or blow a kiss. I know that brief minutes of holy listening can be as deep and transformative as long hours. It is not true for any of us that we don’t have time to be in prayer. It is true for many of us that we often need to have a clock nearby.

It may not seem so odd for an ordained white-haired old woman to write some lines about prayer. It is much odder than I wish it were for us to have conversations with one another about what’s going on when we are being in prayer. We’d sooner talk about sex. Or even money.

Let’s do one thing and then another to make it a little less odd. Let’s strike up some conversations. We might begin by talking to ourselves about what’s going on when we pray. We might strike up conversations with our pastor about what we’re experiencing and about what our pastor is experiencing while being in prayer. We might strike up conversations with others in our congregation. We might strike up conversations with those we love. (These might be escalating levels of risk, or you might rank the challenges differently.)

I’m glad for you to strike up a conversation with me, too!

My tender hope for you is that there will be space to listen wholly and to be heard wholly in the patient, generous company of God…without a clock.