In the midst of the many vain and crafty words of those seeking his soul, David becomes like a deaf man. With the wind and sea raging and the apostles filled with anxiety, Our Lord rests.
In my last high school football game, I was wide open down the left sideline, at least five yards ahead of the nearest defender. I see the ball in the air, but it is underthrown.
I see the defender going for the ball and I try to break my stride to turn back, to try to get to the ball before him. The ground is wet and muddy. I cannot make the turn and fall and slide into the sidelines almost to the rope that separates the crowd from the field.
I am on the ground and only then do I hear a great sound like a raging wind and begin to recognize this as the voices of the screaming crowd. One voice breaks through the noise and I hear my name. “Bezner, get up!”
My power of concentration had been so great that until that moment I had blocked out the noise of the thousands in the crowd during the game. Once up and back onto the field, I heard nothing more of the crowd.
David had such power of concentration. Our Lord had such power of concentration. We have it too, but we do not always put it to use.
To defeat the dictatorship of noise when we pray, we need to tap into our power of concentration.
Babies and young children can fall asleep in the midst of a large family gathering. Some adults can fall asleep at night with the lights still on and the television on in the background.
Sometimes they adults fall asleep because they are too tired to stay awake. Often they sleep in the midst of noise because falling asleep is what they want to do to withdraw. It is a goal, and somehow they tap into their power of concentration to fall asleep.
I pray in two different rooms in my house. One of them I have developed into a small chapel. It is somewhat dark because I rarely open the curtains that cover the window that looks out on our front yard and the street, which can become busy at certain times of the day.
The other room looks out on the backyard, which at least, because of the trees and the hedges, is somewhat secluded. Three sides of the room have windows, a total of seven. The room is filled with light. I often prefer praying in this room because of the light.
No matter which room I pray in, there is noise. Some noise is easy to disregard: Singing and chirping birds, planes passing overhead, passing cars on the street out front, even barking dogs.
Other days, such as this morning as I write, I hear the sounds of trucks picking up garbage and the debris from yards. Although a bit more difficult to disregard, like distracting thoughts I recognize the sound and let it go.
As a child, I could read anywhere. I would be so deep into a story that it would take several calls from my mother or father to break my concentration. I still have this ability.
As a reporter in my twenties and thirties, I could write in a newsroom filled with editors and reporters and rising voices and ringing phones and not even realize anyone else was there. I still find myself entering such a state whenever I write.
When I travel I must pray the hours in the car or in airports. I pray, mindless of all the noise around me.
To pray amidst all the noise we encounter in life, we must tap the power of concentration we use in other aspects of our life. Our prayer must mean so much to us that we mentally block out all of the noise around us.
Many have this power of concentration whenever they truly are engaged in an activity. Athletes have it. Artists have it. Most of us have it in any activity that captures our thoughts, our imagination.
When we pray, we must become fully engaged in the activity of prayer. We must put our power of concentration to use.
Where we pray can help us remove ourselves from some noise and distraction. But wherever we are, there will be noise of some sort.
Hiking up a mountain one afternoon in a wilderness, no one around me, no planes overhead, I could still hear the wind through the trees.
When I stopped after a twisting and turning steep climb almost at the top of the trail, I could hear a loud thumping sound that I soon identified as my heartbeat.
We must train ourselves to let noise go like passing thoughts. We must train ourselves to prevent noise from distracting us. We must train ourselves to use the power of concentration we have in other activities.
It may take time either to develop again this power or to bring it into your prayer if you have it in other parts of your life, but this can be done with a conscious effort. We can develop this power by refusing to give into noise and distractions, refusing to let them disrupt us.
When we drive we may suddenly find ourselves speeding along with the traffic, going five, ten, or even fifteen miles per hour faster than what we would like to drive or the posted speed limit. In such moments, we have given in to the rhythm of the drivers around us.
Until I began to meditate, I would listen to loud music as I drove and I would often find myself speeding along. After awhile, I found myself listening to gentle classical music and I began to slow down. Eventually, after I had begun to pray, I found myself listening mostly to chanting monks and my driving became more deliberate.
When I listen to monks, I never speed. Wrapped in their prayer, I drive along at the speed limit, aware of but not distracted by the drivers speeding by and their occasional angry outbursts toward me. All pass by and along with them the frenzy they create and their anger. I remain in the peace of Christ in my car.
Just as we can lose our way and fall into pace with speeding drivers, we can let noise distract us and set the rhythm of our day. But we have a power within us that can help us overcome this noise, a power we have had since childhood, a power I suspect that even a babe in the womb has.
This power is a gift of God and one that he shows us in Scripture. To the noise around us, we must become like David a deaf man. We must become like Our Lord who rests in the midst of the storm.
The more we let noise and distractions pass by like drifting clouds, the more we will develop and have this power when we pray.
Our Lord promises us this peace when we turn to him. The more we turn to him, the more we encounter this peace.