What is Contemplative Prayer?

“Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer.

It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church  N 2713

What is contemplative prayer?

Very simply, contemplative prayer is stillness of mind and body in the presence of God.  In the quiet, we create time in our life, and space in our hearts in order to be with the quiet simplicity and the perfection of God’s love.  We profess our openness to God’s will, trusting that God knows all of our needs.  Just for now, we let go of the concerns of our hearts: all the people, places and things of our active life. We turn to God, knowing that God’s love is always with us.  It is our experience of God’s grace that can then be reflected back to all of life.

Contemplative prayer is not just a way of praying reserved for saints and mystics who lived in another century.  In our prayer, we come to know that God has the same love for all of us today as was true centuries ago.  We simply open our hearts to God’s transforming grace.  There are few who would not desire a deeper gift of love than is ours today.  Perhaps there is no other way to grow so deeply into this gift of God’s love than by being quietly present.

There is no good, better or best way of prayer.  Everyone’s prayer experience is unique. We stay grounded in the process of prayer, rather than feeling attached to outcomes.  We believe that every life has creative potential beyond our present experience, and we trust in God’s providence.  In humility and simplicity, we accept the gifts of God’s love and grace that come to us along the way.  Contemplative prayer is my nothingness before God’s everythingness, “for the Father knows your every need.” Matt. 6:8  

All is by God’s design.  All is grace.

Am I one who is called to pray in this way?

True contemplative prayer will always be judged by how our lives are gradually being changed because of it.  I will know if I am called to this way of prayer if through my prayer, I feel integrated, renewed and closer to God.  If so, then this may be the cool drink of living water that I choose to return to time and time again. Questions I may ask:

1) Through faithfulness in prayer, am I gradually growing in God’s love, peace and joy?

2) Is this growth being reflected back to me in my relationships?

3) Through spiritual growth in my relationships, am I being led to deeds of charity and mercy within and beyond my faith community?

4) What does spiritual generosity mean to me?

5) How is my life so defined?

       “Where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love.”

St. John of the Cross, The Minor Works