Q&A: Prayer and Listening in the Dark

Prayer and Listening in the Dark

Question

I enjoy reading your Bible notes. Personally, when is your favorite time in the Lord’s presence? Is it when you’re studying, praying or in worship?

Answer

Thanks for your comment and question. I’m humbled — and I have a good editor. I normally answer a question by beginning with Scripture and then using an illustration. I’m going to reverse the process this time for emphasis and create a rather long simile, so please bear with me. Because this answer is also personal, I hope it offers something of depth and value that is translatable for readers.

Music and Listening

I’m an audiophile. I enjoy what is called high-end audio, and I’m fortunate to have inherited a very nice two-channel audio system. I even started an audiophile society. I can’t play a single instrument, but I do enjoy listening to music.

A properly set up high-quality audio system presents a great soundstage. For those that are not familiar, the word soundstage refers to an imaginary three-dimensional space created by the high-fidelity reproduction of sound. It allows the trained listener to hear things that others simply miss. I like the detail in music, so as I expound on this interest I hope to not become too technical.

An audio recording of music may be described as a genuine image of a live musical presentation. The details in a quality recording are amazing. The range combinations of the high, mids and lows can elevate you to a different listening plane. If you close your eyes, you can hear and visualize the positions of each person and each instrument on a stage before you. You can sense their presence. For example: drums are on the left, three singers are in the middle, the piano is on the right, a sax is just to the left of the singers, and the bass is in the back right hand side. It is like being in a bubble that surrounds and encompasses you instead of just being hit straight on. Its height, depth and width are entrancing to where you are drawn in, present, in the moment.

True musicians may spend considerable effort and expense on the production of their music. On in the right system, you may even hear extraneous movements such as the cord on an electric guitar moving across the stage. In some recordings, the microphone is set so you may hear the depression of a piano key and then its release and, at the same time, the note along with its elevation and decay. It is clear, precise, definite. Layer upon layer of detail for each instrument in the performance is there. And yet there is a unity to the entire ensemble. Many instruments, many details, one performance, one song, one message. When you can listen like this, the experience can be transcendent.

Then there are vocals. While aiming to be one with the instruments, vocals are in a league all their own. It’s not just the words, but the way they are sung. Tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques all elevate and reflect the greatness of the song, its melody and richness. This all first catches your ear, then your mind, and finally your heart, even moving you to tears.

I have found through the years that the best time to listen to music is when everything else has been silenced — no other activity in the house, no distractions, no interruptions. In my "listening room" the lights are off, the audio system disappears into the darkness, and music is all there is.

Listening and Prayer

My favorite time in prayer is when in the Lord’s presence I'm moved to tears, joy, or even song. When all else has been silenced and there are no other distractions and I’m all alone, I hear so many precious details. I have a sense of the height, depth and width of God’s presence. Layer upon layer of God’s presence is with me. I’m drawn in. I’m elevated onto a different listening plane of personal communion with God. He is all there is. This isn’t just imaginary. It is very real. It seems I can literally touch him, and I'm assured there will be a day I will actually do that.

So, to answer your question, while not neglecting Bible study or worship, the most precious time for me with God is in prayer. It is the most beautiful "soundstage" there is. I can visualize the Trinity Singers all in perfect harmony singing one song to my entire being, and capturing the uniqueness of each of their voices as well.

Imagine such prayer without ceasing! (1 Thess. 5:17).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).