Do you long for a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord? If so, you might consider practicing contemplative prayer, a type of prayer that calls you to “be still and know that I am God.” Contemplative prayer invites intimacy with the Lover of your soul. It is an ancient, spiritual practice for gaining a depth of relationship with God.
Henri J.M. Nouwen said, “Through contemplative prayer we can keep ourselves from being pulled from one urgent issue to another and from becoming strangers to our own and God’s heart.”
This type of prayer involves quieting your whole person—body, soul, and spirit—and listening for God. In contemplative prayer, God does the talking and you do the listening. There are three stages of contemplative prayer that bring you to a place of intimacy with the Lord.
Solitude—quieting your body
Find a quiet and comfortable place to be alone. This type of prayer doesn’t just happen. It takes effort. Jesus made it his practice to go off alone to listen to his Father (see Mark 1:35 & 6:31). A quiet room, a garden, park, or the beach, are excellent places for practicing contemplative prayer.
Silence—quieting your soul
This is the hard part as you need to quiet your inner person—your thoughts and emotions. Contemplative prayer does not focus on your concerns, so taking time to set these things aside is wise if your mind is working overtime. In order to hear God you have to stop hearing yourself.
Find a comfortable position for your body. Take a few minutes to relax and still your mind and emotions. This isn’t easy. Keep a pen and paper next to you and as a concern intrudes to dominate your mind, note it on the paper to attend to later. You can also use your imagination to picture yourself sitting by a gentle brook. Imagine throwing each intruding thought or concern into the brook and leave it to flow away in the water.
Slowly work your way to a peaceful place where your thoughts and emotions are at rest. Don’t hurry or force this time of quieting your soul.
Intimacy—quieting your spirit
Once you have found your inner place of quiet, just rest and wait in it. Richard Foster describes this time as, “our spirit is on tiptoe—alert and listening. There is stillness to be sure, but it is a listening stillness. Something deep inside us has been awakened and brought to attention.”
At some point in this quiet place you will sense the Lord’s presence and the flow of the Spirit Holy. Intimacy at a deep level happens as the Lord communes with you. Words are not necessary. Feelings of love may flood your emotions, images may come to your mind, and wisdom and revelation may flow as God reveals himself to you.
Contemplative prayer brings an experience of God’s presence that will influence the rest of your day. It takes practice, but the depth of relationship with God that results is worth the effort.
What has been your experience in contemplative prayer? How has it deepened your relationship with God?
In Him together, Susan Gaddis