Prayer is looking out from a different set of eyes, which are not comparing, competing, judging, labeling or analyzing, but receiving the moment in its present wholeness and unwholeness. That is what is meant by contemplation.—Richard Rohr
David Benner, in his book Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer, addresses the topic of “Contemplative Prayer.” He makes the point that contemplative prayer is not all about stand-alone prayer as some may think. Rather, he talks about a contemplative dimension to all prayer.
Praying contemplatively requires the spiritual rhythm of silence and the providing of space for stillness and openness before God. This form of prayer seeks to follow the example of Jesus who often spent prolonged periods of time in solitude and contemplation in communion with his Father (Matthew 14:23, Luke 5:16).
This is not a prayer of presenting some specific issue(s) before God nor is it about the seeking of answers to resolve them. It is simply a matter of being still and knowing that God is who he says he is (Psalm 46:10). The goal is for the one praying to give up self-consciousness and to become God-conscious by inviting God to set the agenda, the tone and the topic of the conversation The idea is to detach ourselves from the thoughts that do come, in the sense that we are not controlled by them—we simply acknowledge them in God’s presence (without judging, analyzing or critiquing), releasing all of these thoughts and concerns to him (including negative emotions, suppressed memories, old wounds, buried shame, etc. that may arise). We then return to an open posture of being in God’s presence with a willingness to be loved by him and to hear his voice. If this contemplative practice is new to you, it may be best to start with a short period of time (5-10 minutes) and then, as it becomes more natural with practice, gradually allow the time frame to lengthen (20 minutes or more).
- Find a place where you can be alone without interruption. Make yourself comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and, in the silence, relax into a sense of peaceful calm from without and from within.
- Allow yourself to be totally open to God and to permit him access to your innermost being where his healing grace is available to strengthen you. (Psalm 55: 6, Ephesians 3:16)
- Release any thoughts, feelings or emotions to God (both positive and negative). Simply take note of what is released; name them; and hand them over to him. You may want to choose a name for God or a short phrase from scripture and repeat it when distracting thoughts seem to predominate. This is a way of simply demonstrating your intention to be fully present to God.
- Remember, there is no agenda here. Enjoy this time of peaceful Presence.
- When you feel it is time to conclude, spend a few moments talking to God about what you have experienced and give him thanks for this time spent with him.
--Charles Fleming & Larry Hinkle
Charles Fleming, DMiss., is an Odyssey in Christ spiritual director and serves as an OIC Board member. Charles has served in pastoral ministry and administration for some 40 years in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States.
Larry Hinkle, DMin., DASD, is founder and director of the ministry of Odyssey in Christ, Spiritual Formation for Leadership. Larry has served in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and is a teacher, spiritual director and retreat leader.