Posted under The Rectory Bulletin
Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. - 1 Samuel 1:13
Poor old Hannah. Her husband had two wives, and she was the one who had not produced any children. The other wife made certain to point this out, and so here was Hannah pouring out her heart in prayer. Eli the priest saw her praying, but was confused that she did so without making a sound. So he accused her of being drunk. It was the only explanation he could find, so odd was it to pray silently.
The point I want to make here is to do with the way we pray and read. Nowadays we take it for granted that do both of these silently; prayer and reading are activities of the mind, not the mouth. Yet this was not always the case.
Towards the end of the fourth century St Augustine saw St Ambrose reading, and was intrigued by what he saw. Augustine recorded: “his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still”. This was so unusual that Augustine felt the need to include the story in his Autobiography.
For much of its existence, the human race has prayed and read out loud, and I do wonder if we might have lost something by giving up on this practice. In fact, if you find it difficult to pray or read the Bible as you mind wanders perhaps you might try again but this time speaking audibly. You may find that this practice makes things easier.
Only, be careful that your neighbours don’t assume you are drunk!