When we think about prayer, what comes to mind is some kind of request or solicitation of God . Maybe we are ill and ask to get better, or ask forgiveness, or maybe a little help with the lottery. These are the kinds of prayers that we mostly engage in.

We might also repeat a mantra, for example, the "Our Father," or Hail Mary" as an act of devotion or contrition. Then there are the holy thoughts about God, heaven, the saints and Jesus as we sit quietly. Or, we might thank God for something good that has happened to us and ask for protection from the bad. These are all prayers of thanks, worship, appeals and requests, but they are not silent prayer.

To understand the power of silent prayer, one has to understand conventional prayer. Conventional prayer involves a relationship between the pray-or and the one prayed to. "I need help, and I am asking for you to give it to me." Thus, you are "here," asking for help, and help is "up there." There are two involved in the relationship; you and God.

Because two are involved, if one of them isn't silent, there can be no mutual communication. Both can't be talking at the same time and hope to communicate. This is the case of conventional prayer; it is the pray-or that is making all the noise and God must necessarily be quiet. Even when the pray-or stops praying, his or her mind is still going a mile a minute with no let up and God still has no crack in the busy-ness of the pray-ors mind to be heard. So it's all one way, the pray-ors way, and lets face it; the pray-or doesn‘t know what he or she is doing, or whether their requests will play out as blessings or curses.

It's not like God (if He could get a word in edgewise), would say, "Yo! Hey you. Do this, do that. Go here, go there." It's more like a subtle calling or urge and subject to interpretation. The problem with conventional prayer, however, is that the pray-or is completely caught up in his or her own thoughts 24/7, and the "urge" can as easily be a calling from the devil as a direction from God! Even an expert can seldom tell the difference because the advice, which is really coming from the pray-ors mind, and which arguably, as such, could be called the devil, usually takes the pray-or down a rocky road regardless of how good it sounds up front.

Silent prayer takes into account all these things, especially the untrustworthiness of thought. Thought can cause all kinds of mischief for us. Of course, thought is a problem solver as well and can make our life more comfortable, but it also can take us down the wrong track spiritually because thought builds ego, which is the antithesis of God.

Ego is an idea of ourselves that must be reinforced or else it weakens. When it begins to weaken it feels threatened and does everything that it can to rebuild itself. This takes a toll on us throughout our lifetime because it is a constant stress upon our minds. There is little room for God to speak to us when we are so busy with ourselves, simply because our minds are so filled with thoughts of ourselves at all times.

In conventional prayer we are pivotally consumed with our problems or the problems of those close to us. In other words, prayer becomes a tool for our egos, and in a way, we are praying to the devil without even being aware of it.

Silent prayer is different. Silent prayer is all about God and has nothing to do with you. Silent prayer opens the door wide for God as you get out of the way. The communication now becomes one-way again, but this time the one way direction is from God.

The next segment will explain how to do this silent prayer, but for now, understand that without silent prayer you will not be able to trust your urges and inclinations because they will be coming from the mind that supports a strong ego. All the good intentions that presumably come from God are probably without merit in the long run and only continue to support your idea of me and mine. Without silent prayer (where you get out of the way so that God can get in), you will not be able to discern what is helpful and what is harmful.

This is why you are told to follow a holy book and not trust yourself. But even assuming that your holy book is true (and all the other holy books of all the other religions are false), the interpretation that the mind makes regarding the complex and confusing statements which can be interpreted many different ways depending upon your level of understanding, still will take you down a rocky road.

Once you touch Truth for yourself through silent prayer, you will know what to do and when to do it without relying on books, lectures or sermons. Virtue will automatically arise so that you will not have to memorize or recite how to act, and you will no longer be gullible or easily duped. With new wisdom and insight, your life will begin to make sense in a big way.

Silent prayer is for everyone regardless of their religion. It can be accomplished by anyone who begins to watch their thoughts instead of being conditioned by them, and this includes people who never heard of religion.

Silent prayer began over 6,000 years ago when men and women went into the desert and mountains, the forests and streams to be alone with God. What they discovered in the silence of those surroundings was that the noise of their own minds still persisted even in the wilderness, and then they really went to work on that. The results were amazing.

Ineffable is the only word that can be used to explain their experiences, experiences that shook the world. The devil no longer had a foothold, as the power of God or Ultimate Truth washed through them in the absence of thought and ego. When they came back from the deserts and mountains, their stories all agreed, there is "that" which is inexpressible, but so meaningful that the world and its millions of enticements are as nothing compared to the personal understanding of Truth.

This is what silent prayer offers; the potential to be totally and utterly free from all stress, because once God enters your being, everything changes. And when everything changes, there is only the eternal unchanging in your heart.

Author's Bio: 

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary www.dhammarocksprings.org and author of A Year to Enlightenment. His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.