Year of Prayer March Prayer Practice: Contemplative Prayer
As we enter into the season of Lent, traditionally a time of reflection in the church year, we will be practicing different types of contemplative prayer. Lent is a time when we seek to purify our souls, thinking about how we can become imitators of Christ, picking up our crosses and following him. As Theresa Blythe writes:
Contemplation is the stillness we need to be aware of God’s presence. Jesuit theologian Walter Burghart calls it “the long, loving look at the Real.” It is long because our relationship with God (like our relationships with people) takes time; we must devote ample time to this Person we love. It is loving because we need to shed our judgments and fears and open ourselves to love just as we are. It is a look because we must face it. Denial is the enemy. And it is the Real because God is not interested in phoniness. We are being invited by God to look at our lives as they are, not as we would like them to be. Therefore, whatever is real to us is what we bring to contemplation and awareness before God. (50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times, Abingdon Press, 2006, p 29)
There are a lot of different forms of contemplative prayer. We will be trying a number of them throughout the Lenten season. Some of these include:
- Centering Prayer: A wordless and imageless contemplation in the presence of God
- Deep Listening: Sharing a memory of God’s presence with a partner
- Prayer of the Heart: Breathing with prayer mantras
- Jesus Prayer: Praying on the phrase: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.
- Praying with Icons: Using an image to help focus your prayer
- Taize: Praying through singing a simple, repeated chants
Contemplative prayer encourages us to spend time with God, listening for God’s guidance. Contemplation is not an end in itself, but a time to step away from our hectic lives, in order to go back into them centered on God and shaped into more faithful disciples.
Lord, make us who you want us to be.
Susan Haddox, Lay Leader