Série de Prière: Contemplation

Contemplative prayer is my favorite type of prayer. When people write about contemplative prayer, they usually refer to the old Catholic saints like St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Madame Guyon. These people are called “mystics”; I don’t prefer the term because of the Catholic affiliation, but I do like to call myself “contemplative.”

What is it?

Contemplative prayer is really something that must be experienced. It is near impossible to describe as it is  communing with God through your spirit (and everyone goes about this a little differently). The basic idea is this: it is a selfless prayer — a prayer that focuses on ministering to God and Him alone. It is giving back to Him because He has given so much to us.

Contemplative prayer is a prayer of the spirit. God is a spirit being, so it follows that He is to be loved in spirit. Although you may receive what the mystics called “favors” (visions, etc.) from the Lord, don’t expect them. Sometimes I come out of contemplative prayer feeling so in love and I don’t know why, I just feel full and like I’m walking on air. Other times I feel more dry than ever.

Practical Steps

I have practiced contemplative prayer in a prayer room, but I think it is most effective in solitude. I like to play soft music or have complete silence.

1. Start with reading the Bible and worshiping. Take this time to write down your thoughts and quiet your soul before the Lord.

2. Find a scripture of adoration (i.e. that makes you love the Lord).

3. Softly repeat the phrase of scripture internally. Seek a connection with Holy Spirit in this.

4. Say the phrase until you feel a distinct “in love” feeling.

5. With no words, remain in that “loving on the Lord” place as long as you can (try to start with 20 minutes).

If you get distracted in this process, go back to repeating the scripture. If you fall asleep, just continue where you left off. It is important to begin with a scripture because of the mystical nature of contemplative prayer. Otherwise, it is possible to get involved in nihilism (extreme skepticism maintaining that nothing in the world has real existence) and other things.

You can use mental imagery when you contemplate, but the mystics consider this a “lesser” form of prayer because God cannot be contained in any imagery and His majesty cannot be given justice through what we know in our heads. I think imagery is a fine place to start, but – in my opinion – it’s good to get to the place where we are able to stare into “the cloud of unknowing” without imagery props.

Recommended Reading

Fire Within by Thomas Dubay is a summary of the lives of two great mystics, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.

Série de Prière: Waiting

There’s something very special about waiting prayer. When practiced with the right motives, it can become the core of your prayer life — and a very important part at that.

What is it?

Waiting prayer is taking time to be still before the Lord. This concept is repeated over and over again in Scripture (Ps. 25:5, 25:21, 27:14, 37:7, 37:9, 39:7, 62:5, 130:5; Isa. 40:31; Lam. 3:25-26; Hos. 12:6 — to name a few). When you quiet your soul and focus on the Lord, you are expectant. You let Him love you as you worship Him and you expect that He will reveal Himself to you. If you’re not used to internal prayer, waiting prayer is a great place to start.

“Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation.” Ps. 62:1

The more you wait on the Lord, the more sensitive you become to the Holy Spirit. You may feel nothing — in fact, for a while, I can almost guarantee you that you will feel nothing — but the simple act of quieting your soul before God will inevitably cause you to sense Him more.

The Bible commands us to wait on the Lord (Ps. 27:14, Hosea 12:6). It is the beginning of trust: you admit your own human weakness and look to the Lord for strength. And David tells us that, “those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.” (Ps. 37:9)

Practical Steps

Waiting prayer can be practiced in a prayer room or in your bedroom. Just be somewhere that you’re not likely to be interrupted.

  1. Start with worshiping God — out loud or internally — and read the Word.
  2. Close your eyes and begin to clear your mind of distracting thoughts. Focus, in expectancy, on the Lord. (If you want, ask God to give you a mental picture to help you focus.)
  3. Then just wait. Don’t ask questions, try not to get distracted — just wait. Honestly, even though I’ve been doing this for 2 years, it often takes a half hour for my soul to quiet down so I can hear the Holy Spirit’s voice clearly. We get so busy during the day that it takes us a while to slow down.

Start with a few minutes at a time. If you fall asleep, just pick up where you left off; there’s no shame in that. You will soon find that you want to wait on the Lord longer and longer because His presence is so addicting.

Recommended Reading

Jaeson Ma, a campus revivalist, has posted his “Waiting Prayer” chapter from his book on his blog — it is an excellent description and includes his own personal testimony.

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This post is a part of a series on different types of prayer. Click here to read the rest of the series.