“Father, Quiet Me”: Amy Carmichael’s Prayer for the Mundane and Spectacular Moments of Life

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By Shelly Durkee

My Father, quiet me,
Til in thy holy presence, hushed,
I think thy thoughts with Thee.
— Amy Carmichael (circa mid-1930s)[1]

Amy Carmichael was an energetic, passionate missionary who gave every inch of her life to rescue the forgotten children of India. Victims of the caste system, these boys and girls had been exposed to unimaginable circumstances — child-headed households, trafficking and slavery, just to name a few. Her world seems to have been one of dichotomies:

  • The mundane, daily tasks of caring for the ever-increasing numbers of children rescued and brought to her home in Dohnavur.
  • The defining, life-altering moments of crisis, fear, exhilaration and grief.

But, really, isn’t that the rhythm of our stories, too?

We each have mundane, daily tasks. For example, we ask ourselves: Did I remember to change the toilet paper roll, take the dog to the vet, put gas in the car, pay the utility bill, take the kids to their activity, mow the grass, or stir the macaroni and cheese? (You get the picture.)

But we also have the heart-stopping moments — both the deeply terrifying and incredibly joyful — where our worlds are instantly changed, when:

You receive the diagnosis.
The marriage proposal comes.
The layoff notice arrives.
The pregnancy test is positive.
You experience a miscarriage.
The police call.
You receive that college acceptance letter.
You learn your children are doing drugs.
You land that dream job.
The fire/tornado/flood/hurricane strikes.
You sense God’s unmistakable presence.
Evil crosses the firewalls that we think insulate us and our loved ones.

These moments interrupt the daily mundane tasks, and our world stops for a moment, a day or even a year.

Amy Carmichael lived these same dichotomies. Her world was noisy. Our worlds are noisy.

I often find myself gravitating to Amy’s prayer. See, the noise of life unsettles my soul. These occasions cause me to become ramped up with either restlessness (in the mundane) or weariness (in the big moments). Even joy can cause anxiety because I know the joyful moments will all-too-soon slip away.

Seldom am I still. Even more seldom do I fix my thoughts upon the thoughts of my God. You, too, may experience the same in your mind and soul.

But here is the beauty of Amy’s prayer: Our father knows this about us, and he wants us to depend on him more. We need him in all the moments of our lives. Only he can quiet our souls.

That’s not to say that we don’t play a role in our spiritual rest. We must practice and devote time to spiritual disciplines: Prayer, scripture, worship, care for our bodies and minds, rest, quiet.

We need God’s help to see his sovereignty in the mundane, in the exhilarating, and in the challenges that cripple us.

In other words, we must consistently preach to our souls the words of the old familiar hymn, “Be Still, My Soul”:

Be still, my soul, The Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently, the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God, to order and provide
In every change, He faithful will remain
Be still, my soul, thy best thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end.
— Katharina von Schlegel, b. 1697 (trans. by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897)

But even in our preaching this truth to our souls, we must remember that it is our Father who stills us. It is our Father who says “Shhh…” to our unquiet minds and souls. It is our Father God who settles us.

Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10)

But don’t miss this: The settled-ness, the peace, the stillness, the quieting of our souls and minds — this is not the end.

The stillness of our souls is good, right and beautiful. Our heavenly Father gifts us with peace and stillness of mind and soul, sometimes even in the midst of breaking hell in our lives.

But that is not where Amy, ended her prayer, and neither should we. What we should most desire is to echo with Amy the plea to God, to “think thy thoughts with thee.” May God help us to see the world as he sees it. To see the needs around us as he sees them. To see our sin as he sees it. To see the forgiveness he extends to us as he sees it. We need his help to see his sovereignty in the mundane, in the exhilarating, and in the challenges that cripple us.

When he hushes our quaking, when we breathe deeply of His grace and when we are still and know that He is God — that is when lasting change happens. He causes us to think his thoughts and allows us to know his truth. It is then that we can assuredly find ourselves, settled.

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…. practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  (Philippians 4:9)

[1] Dohnavur Songs, item 99 (from Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes, by Iain H. Murray)

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Shelly Durkee

Shelly Durkee is a Christ-follower who is keenly aware of God’s mercy and grace. She is the wife of Ken and is mom to four incredible young adults. She delights in every moment spent with her family. Shelly has been published in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal and in the UK Journal "CCPAS Caring." Reading is her favorite pastime, and writing is what helps to keep her pushing forward toward God. Shelly writes about her unique story of grace at shellyduffer.com.

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