Today’s post comes from Live Brave Founder and Creator, Lesley Glenn
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
Recently, my husband and I have been challenged and questioned about our new practice of contemplative prayer and meditation. The “fear” is that we are losing our so called Christian foundations. All of a sudden we are of “concern”.
(Note: We no longer live in fear…..cancer did away with that. A gift. )
This type of concern is not new to us. It has happened to us many times in 30 years.
If we don’t act the same way, we are somehow “backsliding” instead of being perceived as ones who long for a deeper spiritual life and understanding and relationship with God.
So today’s post is some of the research we did when we embarked on this whole contemplative prayer journey.
My husband, Mike is getting his doctorate in this subject, because of how it has transformed our spiritual lives in such a deep and profound way.
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and mystic, one of the founding fathers of this prayer movement sums it up this way:
“The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty. One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction. One is content with what is. One does what is to be done, and the more concrete it is, the better. One is not worried about the results of what is done. One is content to have good motives and not too anxious about making mistakes. In this way one can swim with the living stream of life and remain at every moment in contact with God, in the hiddenness and ordinariness of the present moment with its obvious task.”
When you learn the richness and fullness of the “inner life” and all that God has for you in it. The outer life is no longer threatening or stressful. It actually becomes refreshing and alive, and one’s true nature and identity in whom God created you to be is exciting.
It is in the silence where you learn;
The peace that surpasses all understanding. Philippians 4:6-8
Be still and KNOW I am God. Psalm 46:10
If you sincerely want to know God, hang out in space between your thoughts.
Written by Mike Glenn.
I took a class my second semester in bible college called “study on prayer”. It was a miracle that I went to Bible college in the first place, and I am glad I did, irregardless of all the religious baggage I accumulated, it was part of my journey. I didn’t take the study on prayer class because I was dying to learn how to pray, but because the class was a prerequisite for dating in the Protective Isolation of the pentecostal church/bible college biosphere (cut off from the outside world) I was part of.
At 19 years of age, my previous experience in prayer was the familiar morning after negotiation, “Please God get me out of this and I will never do that again” in reference to drugs, drinking, girls, or money situations.
I was now going to learn how to pray for someone other than myself, and in front of people, this was going to be rough. Should I make a list? How long should I pray? How will I know when I am done? What is the highest priority of what to pray for- salvation, healing, protection, provision? I visited a couple prayer meetings to get a feel for what I was now going to participate in. It was confusing and intimidating to say the least.
The class examined the questions: Why pray if God loves us and already knows our needs? Why pray aloud? Why be much in prayer? Why pray in other tongues? Why pray in English? What type of prayers are and are not answered, and why? And what do these terms mean: prevailing prayer, travailing prayer, intercessory prayer?
Even as a green horn, I realized the class was coming at prayer from the vantage point of what I was supposed to say and do and I discovered almost by accident the other side of prayer (what God says and does) while I laid down on a pew in the chapel “soaking” to peaceful music- saying nothing at all. If prayer was a conversation, then how and when does God speak?
According to Jesus in the famous Matthew 6 (vv.1-14) section where he teaches his disciples about prayer, God speaks first as taught in vv. 1-8. The class did not really cover contemplative prayer or meditative prayer or listening to God and the majority of churches I have been a part of don’t get it either, but it is absolutely a critical foundation. Charismania is so consumed with our authority and response in prayer calling heaven down to earth from the second half of Jesus’ teaching (vv. 9-14) , that we have missed the foundation and base, our center from where that authority comes from- just being with God.
All of a sudden those passages we read about where people including Jesus, prayed all night, now made sense to me, they weren’t praying with words, they were doing the other kind of prayer, they were meditating, practicing the presence of God, practicing silence. Every major faith and religion has an understanding of connecting with God ( via restful awareness/meditation) before petitioning God.
Meditation is an Eastern religious practice you say?- Jesus was a Middle Eastern man and he meditated- deal with it. Verses 5-8 of Matthew 6 are detailed steps for meditation or contemplative prayer that we will look at. This is not a new practice, in the church, but it is experiencing a resurgence across all denominations.
Mark 1:31 – Jesus went off into a “solitary” place to pray
Luke 5:16- Jesus often withdrew to lonely ( private) places and prayed.
Luke 6:12-One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.- ( Was he declaring the kingdom prayer or engaging in listening prayer?)
Luke 9:18- Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him…
Luke 9:28- Jesus..went up onto a mountain to pray. ( not the capital or million man event, or t.v.)
Matt. 14:9-After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,
Before I look at Matthew 6, let me describe some of the characteristics of Contemplative prayer/meditation/centering prayer/restful awareness.
*The whole point of centering prayer is you come back to who you really are (identity) in the presence of God, you are centered, you cannot get thrown off balance when you know your identity.
In silence you possess your soul- meditation is concerned with being not thinking.
The deepest human capacity is realized -when we meditate, we are with God, in God, here and now
Contemplation is not about thoughts, you don’t encourage or reject any thought
The core of meditating is Christ in us, praying in us, with us, for us- Jesus said “ I know where I came from and where I am going”- he knew his source from his contemplative prayer as the Father.
The essence of meditation is accepting the gift of being while remaining non possessive.
Meditation is not quiet passiveness but wakefulness to our nearness and oneness with God
Contemplative prayer is not speaking to God or thinking about God, it is not bringing him your problems, it is just being with him.
Meditation is not petition but paying attention
Contemplative prayer is not being intentional, but paying attention.
Centering prayer is coming to your own center, the foundation of your being and puts you in resonance with all life- the way to wake up is to be silent and still
Matt. 6: 5-8/25-27 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”…..
-v. 6. The room in v. 6 is sometimes listed as a secret/mysterious room or private room, not talking about a physical place, but the heart of the believer. A mystery is a reality that is not discernible to the mind, but is a reality nonetheless. The intent is to go inward where the kingdom of God is, and close off all other distraction.
-v. 7-8. Here is a truth listed many people need to see, saying things (the same things over and over again) has little or no value. A son speaks to his Father ( relationship)one time, many times one word is used in a meditative prayer to help center from distraction. The pagan with no relationship feels the need to throw out many words and the same words with no confidence that the deity hears.
-v.7-8 – Here we see prayer re-defined. It is not primarily asking because he already knows what you need. After you spend time in contemplative prayer, you will many times lose the anxious need to ask for whatever it was, and now have the ability to trust the timing. What is prayer then- not just asking, but being.
Later in the same chapter (vv 25-34). Jesus encourages the person praying to not worry. Anxiety is pre-occupied with past and future and is the enemy of being with God in the only place that is real- Now. This is for me, the main truth of contemplative prayer that is unique and powerful. Mindfulness to the one thing , being in God’s presence by focusing on the present moment brings clarity and focus to all the thoughts and distractions of past and future
See also I cor. 2:14-16, Rom. 8:26-28
Lesley lives a life cultivating gratitude, knowing that each moment is an opportunity and each day an adventure. She believes that her purpose in life is to breathe heaven on earth by being fully present and living wholeheartedly, and desires to encourage others to do so as well.