Am I Talking to Myself?
I remember speaking with a friend who was slowly coming into the faith, and a question about prayer and God’s existence came up. The friend asked me the question, “how do you know when you pray that you are not simply talking to yourself? How do you know that it is God speaking with you?”
The question was striking. I thought it particularly difficult to answer especially because sometimes I am simply speaking to myself! Sometimes I’m at prayer, and simply get caught up in a monologue with myself. In these moments I forget with whom I am speaking with – and so, I do think I am speaking with myself.
Upon further reflection, the story of Thomas and the resurrection scene came up. Thomas who was not present at the time the disciples encountered Jesus, proclaims that “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Surprisingly enough, Jesus appears to Thomas and asks him to do precisely that: put your fingers into my palms and into my side.
Jesus responds thoroughly to Thomas. Thomas says “I will only believe if I get to see this.” Jesus appears and fulfils Thomas’ request. Interestingly enough, Thomas’ doubt is not a vague uncertain doubt. It is clear and precise. Thomas specifies exactly what he would need to overcome the doubt. Jesus seems to say, “Ok, if that’s what it will take to help you believe, here you go.”
The passage is a striking one. Now then what does this story have to do with our original question, how do I know if I am speaking to myself? Perhaps now we can move the question a little bit further. What would help you to see that you are not simply speaking to yourself? What would be a “tell-tale sign” that you have just had an encounter with the living God?
For me its surprise. When I find in prayer, that I am moved beyond the narrow confines of my own understanding and my own logic toward something greater. When I experience myself drawing on inspiration, quiet, and strength that couldn’t have possibly come from me – it is then that I am surprised and left awe struck. For me its in these moments when I experience most clearly, that I am not just talking to myself.