Thursday, June 14, 2012
Contemplative Prayer (PART VI - Practice)
Saying that “we do not find our own center; it finds us…we do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking” is one thing (Rohr 2003, 19). But getting to a place were we both believe and actively practice it is difficult. It requires a departure from the thinking of culture, from Plato, from Aristotle, even the Church at times. To become stable in our interruptions and to live lives of contemplative prayer takes time, effort, and change in perspective.
To enter into contemplative prayer in 2012, several practices help to create the necessary stability, interruption, and change to reorient how we see and perceive things. First, it is important to practice silence and solitude. Both are difficult. They are contrary to the hyper-paced world of consumerism and productivity, but are vital components to the contemplative prayer life. Thibodeaux argues that “I can have silence without solitude, but I cannot have solitude without being silent” (Thibodeaux 2001, 41). Slowing down and ridding oneself of distraction take practice, time, and dedication.
To aid the practice of silence and solitude, “ready-made prayers” become increasingly helpful (Thibodeaux 2001, 55). To repetitively pray, “God’s will be done,” or The Lord’s Prayer, the individual can begin to focus on God more intimately and escape the to-do lists and other tasks and thoughts that distract from silence and solitude. Over time, these prayers seep into all thoughts, leaving the individual with a practice that allows a more continued silence, solitude, and prayer, which is now part of the natural flow of one’s day. God is on our lips and in our minds, and becomes the filter for which life is now lived.
Another effective prayer is, “I am God’s subject…what does my King expect of me? What do I expect of my King? How far will I go in service to Him? How loyal am I? How loyal do I want to be?” (Thibodeaux 2001, 56). This is another centering prayer that, over time and practice, becomes the filter to how all of life is lived. We enter into relationships seeking what God’s will, would be. We complete our mundane tasks in light of them being a service to God. This truly changes everything. There is no longer a segment of life with God, and a segment with the world. This prayer relishes the scriptural truth that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,” and that everything we say and do, have Kingdom implications. The contemplative prayer is now a regular piece that connects everything.
Finally, to practice a contemplative prayer life that provides stability and interruption, leads us to Thibodeaux’s conclusion, that “When I finally painfully turn my eyes away from my own reflection and look upon the face of God, I am so struck by God’s beauty that I never look upon myself again” (Thibodeaux 2001, 145). Left to our own devices, we feel the need to justify time and efforts spent with God in contemplative prayer. Our culture tells us that in all things there is a return on investment, and that through this time of contemplation we should gain an actionable plan or an awareness that betters us in such a way that validates the time and effort put out. However, as we practice contemplative prayer, we understand that God’s purposes are not necessarily the world’s purposes, and that being with Him is sufficient enough. God is more than enough. The contemplative prayer shows us that over and over again.
p.s. tomorrow will be the final PART to this series!