Contemplative Prayer and the Spiritual Journey

Finding God Within

            Last class, we looked at ten of the most quoted urgings of Jesus on prayer in the four gospels. For many of us the quotes are intimidating because we think they don’t work for us.

We can see that oftentimes in prayer the calculating mind, unwittingly, is trying to change God, i.e., trying to ‘get what we want.’ Yet a contemplative mind, where knowledge emerges from silence and spaciousness, can more readily move to ‘wanting what we get’ in our silent prayer. In Centering Prayer we call it Divine Therapy. Our ‘therapist’ knows what we need better than we do.

Confusion in prayer is like confusion with the Outside God. The first part of this year we spent talking about how hard it is to have an intimate relationship with the Outside God. We had to relearn our approach to God. Now the same is true for the other side of the intimate relationship: us. We are learning about our false self, and our phony attempts to grasp and get our biological and social needs met. Our manipulation of God in prayer plays right into this scenario, only God won’t be manipulated into playing along. Instead we get what we need, only our false self rebels and doesn’t want to play. Hence our deepest prayer life is conflicted and frustrating, so we don’t pray.

This week, we want to review notions of Centering Prayer to recognize how this practice readies us for intimacy with God by clearing away the false notions of what to expect in prayer. CP is the heart and soul of profound, personal transformation into who we are and who we were born to be: sharing in the Life of the Divine .

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness;

for we do not know how to pray as we ought,

but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

                                                                                                            Romans 8: 26

  1. Paranoia and metanoia.       What ‘repent’ really means.
  2. Receptive meditation.         The art of letting go.
  3. Divine therapy from a gospel point of view.

The Gospels invite us to a degree of trust in God that seems impossible in today’s so-called real world. Gospel truths are much more about metanoia (a Greek word the Gospel writers used that is usually translated as “repent” that actually means changing our view of the way God works in the world) than about commandments and laws of behavior. These Gospel truths lead us to the great spiritual sacrifice: letting go of control and putting our lives into the hands of God.                                                                      Leonardini, Fining God Within, p. 65

People often comment that simply letting thoughts and feelings be is something their therapists have been trying to get them to do for years. They could not do this before, because they were too caught up in reacting to thoughts and feelings and acting out of them. They had not cultivated the interior discipline that enabled them to make this shift from victim to witness.

Laird, Into the Silent Landp. 81 

The only people who pray well are those who keep praying. In the dark night, when all other practices and beliefs about God lose their meaning, keep returning to silent, contemplative prayer. It will keep you empty and ready for God’s ongoing revelation of an ever deeper love.

Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality, pp. 38-39

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:29-30 

If you then, who are ignorant, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:11 

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.

Jeremiah 1:5

You know me through and through.

Ps 139:14