Jesus Has the Right to Remain Silent – Personal Prayer During Times of Discernment

While attending Mass one Sunday, I found myself feeling miffed. I was trying not to be frustrated by God’s ongoing silence. My husband and I were discerning the next step in our lives, both unemployed and living with my mother. Many doors had closed before us, making the discernment process long and painful with no end in sight. Our friends were all planning for retirement and we, in our early 50’s, seemed to be back to “adulthood—square one” and sleeping in twin beds in my childhood bedroom like Rob and Laura Petri on the reruns of The Dick VanDyke Show my mother enjoyed watching.

That night, in the dark upstairs hallway of my mother’s home, I paused by the large crucifix which hung in the stairway. It was faintly illuminated by the downstairs light, and I reached up and lovingly touched Jesus’ face. Thinking of my frustration earlier in the day, I said, “Who am I? You are God and I am not! You have the right…” I smirked as I realized what I was about to say, “to remain silent.”

For Christians who have made a consistent effort to follow Christ and to grow in intimacy with God, a lack of direction from God can be confusing and hurtful.

“God” we say, “I just want to do Your will. I am seeking Your will. What the heck is Your will?” If we continue to seek His will through prayer and discernment and only encounter breadcrumbs that fade into the darkness of the forest, we sometimes feel more lost than we did at the beginning of the discernment process.

When this happens, our prayer life can often suffer. We may spend our daily time of mental prayer going around and around in our minds as we try to somehow strong-arm God into giving us an answer.

An image comes to my mind to illustrate this kind of prayer. I picture a beautifully kept old farmhouse. I walk up the steps of the porch, open the screen door, and start knocking. Knocking. I know Jesus is in there and if I just keep knocking, He will come to the door. I will compel Him to give me an answer.

While there are several places in Scripture wherein Jesus highlights the need for persistence in prayer, we need to be careful that we don’t just stand on God’s porch, devolving into zombie-like creatures as we steadily bang our heads against a closed door.

I think the image Jesus would prefer us to mediate on is this: the moment we knock, Jesus emerges from the farmhouse and, with a look of love, invites us to spend some time visiting with Him on the front porch.

Jesus sits down, gesturing to a cushioned rocking chair, and we sit side-by side with Him, facing a peaceful, pastoral scene of rolling hills and grazing sheep. (He really enjoys His sheep!) We share our heart with Him, but sometimes He will not speak. He sits with us and allows the Holy Spirit to work in our interior, unperceived.

Perhaps He prompts us to ask deeper questions, such as, “Gentle Jesus, are you showing me something through this process? Do I need healing somewhere? How do you want me to respond to your love?”

And, gazing into the distance with Him, we commune with Jesus the way a couple who has been happily married for 50 years sits in silence with one another. Remembering, hoping, grateful, patient, aware of our own weaknesses and limitations, confident in our spouse’s love.

We have the ability to choose how to approach Christ in prayer. Seasons of discernment can be trying, but approaching God in a panicking fashion with a one-track mind isn’t productive. Instead, we can make an effort to discipline ourselves to pray in a more confident way by sitting down with Jesus and opening our hearts to Him in honest, but trust-filled dialogue, choosing to believe that He is always at work, even (and sometimes especially) in the silence.


The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.


“Do not lose your inward peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. Commend all to God, and then lie still and be at rest in God’s bosom… Whatever happens, abide steadfast in a determination to cling simply to God; trusting to God’s eternal love for you.” –St. Francis de Sales


Thank you, Jesus, for your silence. You must be doing beautiful work in me. Thank you that at some point, you will show me what to do. While I am asking, seeking, and knocking, I choose to be at peace in your presence. It is enough. Amen.

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