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Contemplative Prayer

The purpose of centering prayer is to clear the mind of rational thought in order to focus on the indwelling presence of God, whereas other methods have some contemplative goal in mind: with the rosary, the Mysteries of the Rosary are contemplated; with Lectio Divina, the practitioner thinks about the Scripture reading, sometimes even visualizing it; and with hesychasm as understood in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the practitioner seeks to "see" the energies of God which appear as "uncreated light"...source: Centering Prayer

Lectio Divina

"Lectio divina, translated as sacred reading, was likely brought to the Western Christian Church from the desert fathers of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine in the early fifth century. It was recommended for both lay persons and monastics in the early Christian centuries. Lectio divina is closely associated with the St. Benedict and Benedictine spirituality, and is highly recommended today by the Benedictines and Cistercians. Many later forms of Christian prayer are based on lectio."

Lectio divina, as it is traditionally taught, has four parts or elements:





Read the passage, seek the word or God



Meditate on the passage and apply it to our own

situation and needs



Pray in response to the word of God



Listen in contemplative silence, open to whatever

God may wish to invite or impart


The Method

1. Choose a scripture or other sacred reading
2. Sit comfortably, but not too comfortably, back straight, chest open so the breath is free and open.
3. Read the passage slowly. Savor each phrase. What word phrase or idea speaks to you?
4. Read the passage again. Where does this passage touch your life? What do you see, hear, touch, or remember?
5. Read the passage a third time. Listen quietly.
6. Note insights, reflections, and personal response to the reading in your journal.
7. Follow the steps in order or go back and forth between them as you feel moved.
8. Finish by waiting for a few moments in silence.

Suitable subjects for Lectio include:

1. Psalms
2. The Lord's prayer
3. All scripture
4. The daily office lectionary
5. Devotional readings. The sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Merton's Seeds of Contemplation or No Man is an Island, the writings of Kathleen Norris, Roberta Bondi, Brother Lawrence, Thomas Kelly, are all suitable. Try also Zen and the Art of Archery, Peace Pilgrim, and works by Thich Naht Hahan....source: The Way of Mediation and Contemplation by Teresa Tillson
General Guidelines for Contemplative Prayer of all kinds

  • Pick a quiet, comfortable place to pray and treat this place as sacred. Arrange a pillow or chair to sit on. Have a bible or other sacred reading at hand. Adorn your place with a plant, a candle, or other things that please you.
  • Keep a spiritual journal. Write down dreams, feelings, and impressions from your prayer time, and anything else that seems important in your life. Date your entries.
  • Sit up straight to make room for the breath. Breath naturally and slowly.
  • Pray regularly. Treat this time as you would an appointment with a valued friend. 20 minutes is a standard prayer period. This is about the amount of time the body and mind need to become receptive and able to listen. Doing this twice a day will boost your spiritual growth.
  • Focus on your relationship with God or on being receptive. Do not become attached to gifts such as visions or feelings of ecstasy and closeness to God. Neither be disturbed by trials such as aridity, loud thoughts, disruptive feelings, and the like. Both gifts and trials come and go. They are not a sign of how well your prayer is going, only that you are being changed. Look for the fruits of your prayer in everyday life, not in the prayer period itself.
  • Pick a practice that suits you and stick with it. Be prepared to move beyond that practice as you are called to do so.
  • Suspend the judging mind, but make room for the spirit to act within you. Expect to be transformed, but do not grasp after it. Rest and be intentional in your practice and the work will be done in you.
  • A spiritual friend is someone you can talk about your practice and spiritual life with. It is good to have companionship along the way. A good spiritual director may be hard to find, though they are more common now than they were 10 years ago. Seek such a person if you feel called to do so or your inner way becomes hard and you need direction. A good spiritual director is someone who has prayed for many years. Consider asking at your local Catholic Church for monks or nuns who are experienced in prayer or spiritual direction. Teachers from the Eastern traditions such as Buddhism may be helpful to you. Many are highly skilled. Remember above all, "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him (James 1:5)
  • Be gentle with yourself. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and God is seeking you as eagerly as you are seeking God....
source: The Way of Mediation and Contemplation by Teresa Tillson
"The practice of prayer in Egyptian monasticism, and its later development, raised theological questions that haunted eastern Christianity for centuries after the “Golden Age” of Egyptian monasticism had passed. Evagrius, formed in the traditional practices of the Egyptian tradition, taught an ideal of “imageless prayer” that was in tension with the image-laden texts he and other monks pondered day and night.... Another aspect of his teaching on advanced stages of prayer, noted earlier, which Evagrius held in common with venerable Egyptian monks such as John of Lycopolis, was the appearance of a blue luminosity in prayer that both Evagrius and John interpreted as either a glimpse of God’s imageless presence or the natural light of the mind reflecting its divine Creator. This problem of human access to the divine essence would preoccupy much Byzantine theological reflection and culminate in the Hesychast controversy of the fourteenth century with its definitive distinction between the accessible divine energies and the utterly unknowable Godhead. Such disputes may seem recondite to us, but their impact on eastern Christianity was immense. Fundamental to all such controversy was the question confronting any serious Christian practitioner trying to make sense of an untidy sacred text and a God who seemed to insist on meeting human beings in time and place. It should be little surprise, then, that the monks of early Christian Egypt took on this challenge. Immersed in biblical texts, hallowing natural rhythms of day and night, attentive to body, senses, and surroundings, fully cognizant of the painfulness of charity and the allure of self will, they stand before us even now as the Sign of Contradiction promised by their Divine Master."...source: THE PRACTICES OF MONASTIC PRAYER:ORIGINS, EVOLUTION, AND Columba Stewart

An Alternate View

The Danger of Centering Rev. John D. Dreher

"Many people assume centering prayer is compatible with Catholic tradition, but in fact the techniques of centering prayer are neither Christian nor prayer. They are at the level of human faculties and as such are an operation of man, not of God. The deception and dangers can be grave." "Centering prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as someone apart from oneself. The Christian knows a God who is personal, yet who, as Creator, infinitely transcends his creature. God is wholly other than man. It is also crucial to Christian prayer that God engages man's whole being in response, not just his interior life. In the view of centering prayer, the immanence of God somehow makes the transcendence of God available to human techniques and experience."
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