Contemplative prayer is so simple I can explain it in a sentence:
Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, and spend some time in silence with God –
Try it, and see what happens!
Maybe you’ll experience a deep otherworldly sense of inner peace or have a life changing mystical encounter with the Lord. Maybe you’ll levitate or hear angels singing. Maybe you’ll be given a profound revelation from God or receive a miraculous healing.
Jesus Himself said “With God, all things are possible.” Plus saints, mystics, and even ordinary people like you and I have experienced profound supernatural phenomena in prayer through the centuries.
But more likely – if you’re brave enough to attempt contemplative prayer, you’ll be given the greatest gift of all: awareness of areas inside yourself that are standing between you and the fullness of who God created you to be.
And that’s okay! Really, it is. We all have stress, limiting beliefs, insecurities, resentments, doubts, wounds, bad habits and fears that need to be processed in the light of Christ’s love for us.
It’s easy to stuff those unpleasant parts of ourselves down into our subconscious rather than deal with them – out of sight, out of mind. Avoidance of our true thoughts and feelings is the fastest and most practical solution to pain and often what we’re conditioned to do from birth.
But the problem is! It’s not a long-term solution.
Kind of like when we keep shoving all our old junk into a back hidden closet of our house, we never feel quite settled until we clean it out, and if we don’t take the time to clean it, it eventually overflows out into the rest of the house anyway. The sooner we deal with it once and for all, the better.
It can feel vulnerable to invite the Creator of heaven and earth in all His infinite glory into all the nooks and crannies of baggage we haven’t even wanted to look at by ourselves, much less show to anyone else – but it’s so far beyond worth it!
Whether or not we have a mystical encounter with the living presence of God, the time we spend in prayer is valuable because every time we invite Divine Love into the messiness of our hearts, we make more room for Christ’s miraculous unconditional love to replace it with graces. Sometimes these graces are imperceptible to us, but they are always priceless gifts from our Creator, who loves us and can see the big picture of what’s best for everyone including ourselves.
Even though contemplative prayer may be the simplest thing in the world – sticking with it may be one of the hardest!
No matter how many to-do lists start buzzing through our minds like honey bees; No matter how many times we wonder “what’s the point of even doing this” or think “I’m bad at this, I can’t do this;” No matter how bored we get; No matter what feelings come up from the murky depths of our being to be processed; No matter what outrageous request God whispers into our hearts that we don’t feel at all equipped to accomplish … the key to contemplative prayer is perseverance.
In the silence, we must be willing to redirect our thoughts to God one at a time and be willing to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit no matter what. In contemplative prayer, we need to stay open to possibilities, continually reminding ourselves how good, creative, loving and powerful the God we’re praying to really is.
I created Contemplative Prayer Circle to encourage imperfectly faithful people (like myself) to take a little more time for silence with God in daily life. We all need help and encouragement to stick with it through the ups and downs that are to be expected on any spiritual journey.
Over time in Contemplative Prayer Circle, we’ll explore many different ways to focus on God in prayer until He draws us into deeper levels of inner stillness, which is actually a grace. But for now! Here’s an easy way to start:
- Find a quiet place, where you won’t be interrupted
- Set a time goal (even 5 minutes is a great place to start.)
- Say some kind of a prayer that is meaningful to you. (For example: God teach me to pray or Lord fill me with Your Holy Spirit. A favorite rote prayer like the Our Father or Hail Mary can also be a wonderful starting point.)
- Be still and know God is with You. Even just your desire to pray comes from the Lord! By taking time for silence, remember you are already on the right track.
- Every time you get distracted, take a deep breath and redirect your thoughts to God, possibly returning to the prayer you started with.
- Stay open to promptings of the Holy Spirit, trying to sense God’s presence with you, allowing Him to lead prayer but don’t worry if you can’t do this right away – you can always keep returning to the prayer you started with.
- Allow yourself to be drawn into peace beyond thoughts and words – that’s the goal of prayer but not something we can accomplish without God’s help!
- Be patient with yourself, when your mind wanders (it probably will).
- Say thank you to God for being with you, whether you feel His presence or not.
- Develop a contemplative mindset throughout your busy day, trying to take more deep breaths, slow down and sense God’s presence with you, in the people around you and in nature.
What are your experiences of contemplative prayer so far? Comment below, and I’ll be delighted to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
Want to learn more about the transformative power of contemplative prayer and the path to union with God? Start by reading: The power of contemplative prayer by Dr. Anthony Lilies, who is the author of “Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer” and “Fire from Above”, who also collaborated with Dan Burke on “30 Days with Teresa of Avila” and “Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux”.
For more information on Contemplation, you can also check out Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation’s information on Contemplative prayer here. Richard Rohr is the author of Naked Now Learning to See as the Mystics See and Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.
There is a lot written about prayer and contemplation, but ultimately it all points to the personal relationship each of us can forge through our own prayer practice.
I encourage you to carve out some time for daily silence today.
Lord, give us the grace to seek you in the silence of prayer, and give us the courage to persist into ever deeper levels of union with Your perfect love. Bless Contemplative Prayer Circle to be a safe place, where we can grow closer to you through prayer and community. In Jesus name, we pray.
Written by Nicky Gant for Unite in Prayer 6/2/2019