For years I’ve been in the habit of talking to myself.
Sometimes it’s borne out of loneliness, love of solitude, introversion, or just the desire to think more lucidly about something. Speaking out loud slows down thoughts to a manageable speed, helps to unmask those poisonous whisperings that would otherwise go unchallenged.
But it occurred to me recently that, in my spates of self-talk, I might be missing a trick.
Given that I have effectively been talking to an invisible interlocutor all this time anyway, why not turn it into something more useful? Why not address God? Like many Christians, I often reflect that my prayer life is shamefully threadbare. And yet I spend so much time effectively “praying to myself”.
Martin Lloyd Jones began his book Spiritual Depression with these words:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?
Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.
Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”
This is good – even life-saving – advice.
But notice that Psalm 42 begins with prayer directly to God:
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
The Psalmist doesn’t simply “talk to himself”. He is, at the same time, talking to God.
[Image by Klaus Kommoss]