by Cynthia Ruchti

In writer circles, the saying goes that a writer staring out the window is not taking a break. The writer is working. Staring out the window is part of the process.

And it is. Or staring at a single leaf. Or ocean waves. Or a blank screen.

On a recent novel project, I spent what I felt was an inordinate amount of time staring off into space. I mentally tested theories, character arcs, settings, plot points, discarding them like a teen digging through a pile of laundry for a pair of jeans that was clean “enough.”

The novel had several false starts before the first word was committed to the screen. The real start felt like pushing a square-wheeled wagon uphill. With the emergency brake locked. In winter. One-handed.

I didn’t need more research. I didn’t need more time with the character sketches or the plot map.

I needed solitude. Silence. Intentional silence, which meant shushing my thoughts, too.

The prayer of silence–a holy version of listening.

And the answers came. They always do. Not immediately, but the best answers are always a byproduct of holy listening.

How much of Jesus’ prayer life was spent listening? The pages of Scripture don’t tell us. But we have a hint in passages like Luke 11:1 CEB, where we’re told “Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.'”

The following verses form what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. Praying those guided words takes twenty seconds. We assume Jesus didn’t mean to say that what He described in those few verses were all He said to His Father when He prayed.

But when He stole away from the crowd to pray, He prayed all night long in some instances. He didn’t return hoarse. He returned fortified. Is it partially because He listened to His Father? His prayers may well have been more listening than speaking.

This morning I dumped another bunch of disconnected words before the Lord and waited there for Him to speak. He kept me in silence a long while.

When I rose from that place to carry on with the day’s activities, the words remained disconnected. But I had every confidence the listening had positioned me to hear where they belonged. Eventually.

I hadn’t been staring into space. I’d been staring into HIS space. That made all the difference.

YOUR TURN: Can you share a time when frantic thinking netted you nothing until you got still enough to listen?

Award-winning author and speaker Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope, drawing from 33 experience writing and producing a fifteen minute radio broadcast of drama and devotional thoughts. Her latest releases include All My Belongings, a novel from Abingdon Press Fiction.