3 O'Clock Prayer
by Fr. Terence Crotty OP

Search in the Silence

I was in Glendalough (Ireland) last weekend. It was like Dublin City Centre with crowds of all languages walking the hills. When St. Kevin went to Glendalough there were no roads, and Kevin would have spent a few days walking across heather, rocks, and woodlands until he arrived in this valley, into the absolute silence where he had come to look for God. The early monks were amazing people, going out into the Irish wilderness where, listening to the silence, they found the silence had someone waiting in it: the God they were searching for.


God was not there
The Bible tells us also of Elijah, the prophet, being worn out and afraid for his life and heading into the desert where the Lord told him to stand on the mountainside and wait. And there was a massive wind, so strong that it broke off rocks and boulders, but God was not in the great wind. Then there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake, and then there was a fire, burning the scrub on the mountain and sending its smoke into the air, but God was not in the fire. And then there was a still small breeze, like a tiny whisper, and when Elijah heard that, he knew that God was there, in the tiny silence.


When we begin to pray

When we begin to pray, like the prophet Elijah or like the Irish saints of old, we should first of all listen and remember that God is in the silence. A famous Dominican priest of the nineteenth century, Fr. Bertrand Wilberforce, once wrote that we should begin prayer with ‘an act of faith in God’s presence, and of adoration, profound and humble, of his majesty.’ We should remember first of all that God is there. We should remember then who God is: the same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, Jesus who healed the woman with the haemorrhage just because she touched his garment, Jesus who raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Then, like Elijah, we will hear God in the still small breeze and go out to meet Him.


Prayer isn’t about me, but about us
A second helpful thing is to remind myself that prayer is something I do, but also something we do: I speak, God listens and acts. Our prayer isn’t simply words we say, but a presence of me with God and God with me. Prayer isn’t about me, but about us. Jesus tells us “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (Jn 14:23). We should remember this promise every time we pray and make use of it. Prayer is then the meeting of the true me with the true God.


Faith Re-Kindled
I once saw a Frenchman speaking in a video of having consciously given up his Christian faith at the age of 18 in the tumultuous year of 1968 and going looking for his “spirituality” in the East. In time he found himself in India where he joined a Hindu community and became second only to the “guru” in charge in his knowledge of Hinduism. One day he fell sick and a doctor, who was an Indian Catholic, came to see him. In the course of conversation, hearing that he was once a Catholic too, the doctor asked him, “So, who is Jesus Christ for you now?” At those simple words he said, it was like as if a gentle breeze blew over the dying embers of his Christian faith and they suddenly burst into flame. He returned to France and eventually became a monk and a priest. The gift of the presence of God in his heart, promised by Jesus in the Gospel, had not been taken away and was ready for him when the time came.


The Gift of Faith
We should remember this gift and make use of it every time we pray. Prayer is then the meeting of the true me with the true God who dwells silently but powerfully inside us. Our act of faith whenever we begin prayer is our way of touching this presence. “Faith,” said St. Thomas Aquinas, “is the beginning of eternal life in us” because when we believe we touch God in a real way. This is what St. Kevin and the other Irish saints knew when they went out into the wilderness and gathered their disciples around them. They heard God speaking in the still small breeze and went out to meet Him.


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St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland

St. Eunan's Cathedral

Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland



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