Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt describes contemplative prayer as “a long, loving look at the Real.” Contemplative prayer is not the “usual” ways we think of prayer—speaking, listening, naming our desires, thanking or praising or confessing. It is simply attention to God, “seeing” the invisible that is always with-us. There are many ways to go about this kind of attentive prayer. One way that has been used for centuries is to sit in silence, with one word or phrase to “center” you back on God whenever your mind wanders (and wander, it will). Usually a name or attribute of God, the 14th century anonymous work, The Cloud of Unknowing recommends it being something very short, even monosyllabic (like “God” or “Love”). As you sit in silence, speak that word quietly and let it orient you to the Presence that is present to you. Let your distracting thoughts go, flowing by without attending to them (as your goal is attending to “the Real”!). Just keep returning to the word that centers you. But this “centering” prayer is only one way—the crucial part of contemplative prayer is simply presence to God, without agenda or even words, just being together. We can do that by contemplating things in nature, or art, or even in our own bodies. We can do it when we are working or playing, though longer periods of silence and solitude and stillness lend themselves particularly well to this way of praying. When (if) you try this kind of nondiscursive (not using language) prayer, what comes up for you? Do you get frustrated by distraction, by your inability to focus? Does it feel pointless, like nothing is happening? What are your feelings as you pray in this way? Your fears? As this week goes on, if you practice contemplative prayer at all, come back here to reflect how the experience was for you, and ask any questions you may have! Let’s really explore this together!

Posted by Jamie Bonilla at 2022-08-09 14:47:57 UTC