Week 26

These weekly posts show the Triad teachings. Starting at week 1 and progressing through the weeks will help you see the logic of the series.

Contemplative Prayer

One the best methods for gaining transformation is “contemplative prayer”.

There are 2 groups of people who address this subject: the Catholic monastic, and the burned out Protestant minister.

There are many Catholic monks (and nuns) who have written on contemplative prayer. In this New Day Monk website you can read some of their work in the Mystic Blog section and you can read some about their personal history in the Monkipedia section.

A good example of the “burned out” Protestant minister approach is found in Peter Scazzero’s book “The Emotionally Church”. In this book he chronicles his journey into burnout (eventually “hitting the wall”)and through that crisis into discovering a new way to pray (and listen) that brought him rest and success. Here is a quote from his book that hints at the value of contemplative prayer: “Most leaders shipwreck or live inconsistent lives because of forces and motivations beneath the surface of their lives, which they have never even considered…. The longest journey of any person is the inward journey…pioneering new parts of my self – the good, the bad and the ugly” (pages 72, 75).

Since Contemplative Prayer is such a large topic we will take some time to explain it.

Let’s start with a simple description (from the Monkipedia section of this website) of this type of prayer:

The modern (and also post modern) use of the term “contemplation” usually refers to thinking about something.  Thus for example, a person might be said to contemplate marriage. In another instance, I might tell you that I have been contemplating the size of the universe. Thus in contemporary use the term “contemplation” is used in a similar way as the term “meditation”.  So it might be said that a person has been contemplating the universe, or meditating on the size of the universe, and these would be similar activities.

 

The premodern (or medieval) use of the term was different however. Catholic monks, nuns and mystics used the term contemplation to refer to prayer states (communion with God states) that were beyond words and thought.  Contemplative prayer is thus contrasted with discursive (verbal) prayer. Verbal prayer (intercession; making requests; petition) is understandable and can be said to be in the realm of the mind.  Of course, normal prayer is still  spiritual, and still has elements that cannot be understood, but for the most part we would say we understand it and can communicate it.

 

Contemplative prayer, in contrast, does not use many words. It is, instead, a non verbal form of communion with God. Thus, the contemplative is describing an experience with God, not necessarily thoughts about God, or words spoken to God.  Contemplation is often described as closeness to God.  It may be said to be an experience of the presence of God. A contemplative might say they “hear” God or “see” God, but it would be a spiritual use of these terms; and thus they would not usually mean that they heard words or saw visions.

In short, contemplative prayer is a (mostly) wordless “loving communion” with God that opens the heart and “ears” to “hear” God directly. Perhaps it would be closer to say that it opens the heart to feel God’s thoughts.

This is a discipline that people learn, and it usually starts with an introduction to the main methods used; and central to all these methods is the topic of next week’s essay: Silence and Solitude.

 

 

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