I had a sense God was inviting me up there, inviting me to stop being mad at him. I couldn’t talk about it to anyone. After the sessions, I stayed in the chapel to gaze. I shut my eyes, knowing the window and the trees were there. No words. No tears. When I got home, I found that for the first time in a few years, I was ready to move forward with God. Those hours God and I had spent together, relating but not speaking, helped me become almost comfortable with God once again. I wasn’t so cynical, but I also wasn’t hopeful. I was just ready to hang out with God. But this time I wouldn’t bombard God with so many prayer requests. This time I would just be still and know that God is God. And learn to love it.Read More Post a comment (0)
The term contemplation is derived from the Latin word templum, which referred to a “space in earth or the sky set apart for the sacred examination of animals’ entrails for indications of divine meaning.” Hence the temple became the dwelling place of the gods and the place in which oracles discerned divine meaning and purposes. Contemplation refers not so much to place but to the “seeing into” or “looking at” the insides of reality. And what is at the source of this reality? Or what is the really real? God. So contemplation refers to the “looking at” or the “seeing of” God.Read More Post a comment (0)
“Mary . . . was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.” (Luke 10:39, NASB)
In its broadest sense, contemplative prayer is being open to the beauty and power of God- basking in his presence and enjoying his company. No words or thoughts are necessary. It is simply allowing oneself to be totally captivated by God and resting in him.
If contemplative prayer is understood in this way, I would have to say I have been a contemplative for most of my life. Thanks to the cultural and familial tradition in which I grew up, I learned early on that I lived in a world that was saturated with the presence of God. As a young child, I was keenly aware that I was with God and God was with me, and the joy of being present to the God who was Presence to me has been the subtext of my life.Read More Post a comment (0)
This is a great article, with very helpful distinctions and encouragement for those who don’t think of themselves as contemplatives—who struggle with prayer—to give the practice of contemplative prayer a try. Benner dispenses with the notion that contemplative prayer is somehow a more advanced form of prayer. Rather, he contends that contemplative prayer is rudimentary and basic, involving a different, earlier kind of knowing that we may have used intuitively when we were young. In the same way that children do not need to be taught to observe tadpoles in a pond, but watch, silently attentive and filled with wonder, so can we attend to God—as we “become like little children.”
When we know through reason we make the world conform to our concepts of it. In contrast, an encounter with reality by means of wonder allows us to adjust our concepts of the world. This is what makes contemplative prayer transformational. When someone is known in love, words become less and less necessary, just as lovers can sit in silence for hours, simply enjoying each other’s presence and being filled up inside.
Prayer is often taught as a way to talk to God rather than listen. It is couched as something that I, rather than God, take the initiative to do. It is based in my ability to reason. Yet the truth is that our prayer is a response to the God who has already called us. And the essence of prayer is not so much what we do as what God does in us. John of the Cross calls contemplative prayer “passive, loving receptivity—leaning toward God in faith with longing, openness, and love.” Benner calls this kind of prayer a dance in which the Christian allows God to lead him or her in the dance steps. He talks about these steps as having a rhythm, found in the process of lectio divina.
Contemplation and social action are often seen as two separate camps. In this article, Thelma Nambu shows how her contemplative life informs and is profoundly integrated into her work with women who are survivors of prostitution. Thelma is honored by her fellow Filipinos and addressed as Ate, a title of respect and esteem.Read More Post a comment (0)
As I began to contemplate (verb chosen deliberately) the writing of this article, I did what any alert 21st –century seeker would do: I went online. Sure enough, my article has already been written many times, both tersely and expansively, eloquently and not so eloquently, and almost exclusively under the rubric “Centering Prayer.” As I browsed among the offerings unfurled upon my screen, it became clear to me that more than enough has already been written about method and that I was drawn to something deeper.Read More Post a comment (0)
Donald Harris is a remarkable man. While serving as a Navy chaplain, he developed an affinity for outcast sailors, finding himself drawn to those who repulsed most others – the abused and the abusers, the afflicted and the addicted, the yellers and the smashers. Hollow, angry eyes were for him a siren call for grace. But the young lieutenant had a major problem. The ones who most needed his help often had hearts of stone – impenetrable to his offer of God’s love.Read More Post a comment (0)
What happens when two friends talk without a script for three hours about grace, and one of them is Philip Yancey, arguably today’s premier Christian writer and author of the landmark book What’s So Amazing About Grace? Well, I’ll tell you one thing that happened: we (at least I) forgot that we were chatting to generate an article for Conversations. Our conversation over lunch took on a life of its own.Read More Post a comment (0)
This place is different, I thought as I sat for the first time in the bleachers of a high school gymnasium that transformed itself every weekend into Church of the Open Door. The worship session filled me with hope, and David Johnson began to preach from the book of Matthew with passion and authenticity. I instinctively knew I was home.Read More Post a comment (0)
During my freshman year in college, I was on top of the world. I was enjoying campus life at the university Thomas Jefferson built, playing on the tennis team and making good grades. Life was great – until I developed an eating disorder called anorexia athletica. I had heard that many female college athletes struggle with this strange disorder, but I never thought I would be susceptible to it. And I certainly never thought anorexia would become a means for me to experience grace.Read More Post a comment (0)