top of page

The Listening Side of Prayer?

Does the chatter of life drive you crazy? Especially in the time of pandemic, when we are searching for a way through the moment, it is easy to allow the noise around us to overwhelm our inner voices that propel us toward hope, compassion, and courage.

In this milieu, I find myself drawn to books about how others have responded to hard times, how they have coped with the aloneness of the moment and lifted themselves to a higher plane, one where concern for their fellow humans overpowers the tendency to give up or succumb to hopelessness.

One of these books is the one I am reading now. Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor may not sound like a book filled with hope if you focus just on the title, but its message is remarkable.

The notes about the book put it this way

What Buddha taught, says Batchelor, is not something to believe in but something to do–and as he explains clearly and compellingly, it is a practice that we can engage in, regardless of our background or beliefs, as we live every day on the path to awakening.


For example, Batchelor includes chapters designed to help the reader during the practice of meditation make sense of life by confronting life’s inevitabilities head on. Such a chapter is one in which he suggests the reader contemplate this thought.

Since death alone is certain and the time of death uncertain, what should I do?


On the face of it, that cryptic saying may strike a reader as a refrain that celebrates hopelessness. It isn’t. Rather it is a call to each of us to consider the fundamental verities of existence, not to pretend as if they are something they aren’t. It is Batchelor’s call for us to take life by the neck, to see it for what it is, while he encourages us to carry on even in the face of terrible and tragic circumstances.

Which reminds me of a story I heard about Paul Tillich, a Christian theologian, who fled Nazi Germany. Someone asked him if he prayed, and Tillich replied that it was probably more accurate to say that he meditated.

I take that to mean that for Tillich prayer was not about yelling obscenities into the void or directed at a distant God, but instead, it was listening for a still small voice, or reaching out to what he called “the ground of being.”

The listening side of prayer.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page