This morning I settled into a quiet and starkly beautiful place along the Columbia River in Washington State. It is a small community sitting on a spit of land that juts out into the river beneath deeply cut, thousand-foot-high cliffs that rise straight up on both sides. The morning sky is a cloudless blue, the air is still and bears a slight edge of chill. The cliffs on the eastern side of the wide river are brilliantly lit in the morning sunlight and I am moved to a prayer of praise to the Creator of all of this unspeakable beauty.
The opening verses of Psalm 19 came to my mind as I stood down by the river just after sunrise. The river was as still and glassy as a mirror. The cliffs on the western side of the river were sparse, painted with shadings of desert yellows and browns and broken here and there with patches of green in the narrow cuts that fall down to the river’s edge from the tops. The sun had just risen above the eastern cliff walls exposing the eastern cliff face to its brilliant light.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world. In the heavens, God has pitched his tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises to one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth” (Psalm 19:1-6).
All of creation has the ability to reveal the beautiful, creative, mind of God to us. Sometimes we find ourselves in natural places of wonder like this, at just the right moment, when the light is just right, and our souls are, by God’s grace, opened enough to be stunned with awe at the realization that we are standing in the presence of God. It is at times like this that we can hear the symphony of God’s creation that is always there, intoning God’s praise, but because we are too often surrounded by so much noise we miss the beauty that is being revealed to us in every moment. It is at times like this that our hearts overflow with a joy that is so overwhelming that, like the psalm says, it is beyond speech; there are no words great or grand enough to express it, save for a sigh of wordless prayer. It is at times like this that our souls, for that brief and overwhelming moment, converse directly with God.
How often do we take ourselves apart from the constant clamor of our daily lives and purposely seek out that solitude and silence where we can hear the soft whisper of God. In reality, He waits patiently, at the center of our hearts in every moment. How often do we quiet our minds, and willingly place ourselves in that space outwardly and inwardly where we can be alone with God? This is the habit of prayer. We are to pray, that is, to enter into conversation with God, where we can be ourselves, without pretense, in his loving presence. In such sacred moments we, too, can “proclaim the glory of God” in wordless prayer like nature does from day to day, and night to night.