Meditation Monday – An Experiment in Contemplative Prayer

by Christine Sine

by Christine Sine

Over the last few months I have been experimenting a lot with contemplative prayer and what method suits me best for this present time and circumstance. I am not an expert in contemplative prayer practices, and am not formally trained in its methods but still felt you would appreciate hearing about some of my experiences so I have put together this video of some of my thoughts on contemplation combined with a short contemplative exercise.

An Introduction to Centering Prayer

Like many of us I have felt a strong need for silence in the midst of the chaos around me and have been attracted particularly to centering prayer.  

There is much that attracts me to this method of contemplative prayer and its purpose of helping us get in touch with the activity of God in our inner being. It helps us both let go of external circumstances and their turmoil as well as of the interior noise of our thoughts and feelings. 

I love its use of a sacred word as an expression of my intent to leave behind external concerns and welcome the divine presence into my inner being. It’s a great tool for directing me towards the interior silence in which God dwells. Thomas Keating’s book Open Mind, Open Heart has been a particularly valuable resource for me and some of the steps I talk about below are adapted from this book.

More than anything centering prayer has directed me toward the inner experience of God’s love deep within me, making me very aware that God is indeed my beloved and I am beloved by God. 

God’s Love – The Focus of My Contemplation

This focus on the love of God has become the center of my contemplation over these days in isolation and I find myself hungering more and more for an awareness of the divine love. I am very aware that I am not worthy of being loved by the Eternal God of the universe, but I am also aware that God dwells in my innermost being hidden and invisible yet waiting for me to acknowledge and surrender to. In that surrender I don’t just dedicate myself to a deeper union with God, but I surrender also to the outpouring of God’s love and compassion in service to others. 

I hunger for God’s love but God also hungers for relationship with me and with all humankind. 

As I read in Psalm 136 a couple of days ago “God’s tender love continues on forever.”

I have read that God’s first language is silence but for me silence is more a pathway that enables me to understand God’s language. For me, God’s first language is love. I expressed that in a poem I wrote several years ago that has become something of a mantra for me:

Love is God’s language
Let us learn to speak it fluently.
Love is God’s culture
Let us learn to live it joyfully.
Love is God’s nature
Let us learn to practice it faithfully. 

So now I thought I would introduce you to the process that I have found helpful over the last couple of months to enter into that love and go deeper each day into the presence of the Eternal One.

Practicing Contemplative Prayer.

First, let me walk you through the process I use and then we can practice it. I should mention that at the point when I asked people to relax and get comfortable our dog lay down on the floor, gave a big sigh and went to sleep – what we call “doggie meditation”.

  1. Find a quiet place with minimal distractions. The idea of contemplative prayer is to focus on God and the more we are distracted by the world around us the harder that becomes.
  2. Sit comfortably and relaxedly in your space. Sitting comfortably decreases the discomforts of our bodies, another distracting element. You may like to hold something like a small hand cross, a heart shaped stone, or prayer beads. For many of us holding something like this helps us maintain our focus. I will use my favorite heart shaped stone today as my focus object. Alternatively, you might like to light a candle.
  3. Close your eyes. We tend to focus on what we see. Closing our eyes reinforces our intent to leave behind the exterior world and its distractions to focus on the invisible but very present God of the universe.
  4. Acknowledge the reality we are immersed in, yet rarely think about – God’s presence is everywhere – around us, in us, embracing and holding us. It is present in every moment and available at all times. When I close my eyes and focus on this thought, it become very real and enveloping.
  5. Scripture reading – I will read a short scripture to ground our time of silence in the God who is love.
  6. Read a prayer – If you are like me, I need lots of help focusing so I will read a prayer I have written especially to calm my spirit and focus my inner being more deliberately on God.
  7. Pause in the presence of this reality silently, savoring the presence of God for a couple of minutes. At this point, I will strike a resonant sound on my singing bowl. And we will hold 2 minutes of silence. It is good to mark an intentional silence like this with a sound at the beginning and end to make your spirit aware of the boundaries. At the end of the silence I will sound the singing bowl again,
  8. In this place of reverence and quiet I will read another prayer and a scripture as we end, then close in silence.

Let’s begin.

Sit comfortably in your quiet place, relaxed and comfortable.
Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths in and out to calm your spirit.
Acknowledge God’s presence in you, around you and radiating out from you. 
Welcome the Holy One into the inner place of your being. 

Psalm 97:10-12 The Passion Translation

Listen you lovers of God! Hate evil,
for God can keep you from wrong  and protect you  from the power of wickedness
For he sows seeds of light within his lovers,
And seeds of joy burst forth for the lovers of God! 
So be glad and continue to give him thanks,
For God’s holiness is seen in everything he does.

Prayer

I sit in the place of quiet
Breathing in, breathing out
I close my eyes to distraction
I close my ears to the world’s noise.
I center myself on God today.
I sink into the presence of the Eternal One.

Divine love in me,
Holy love around me,
Omnipotent love embracing me,
Holding me, 
Penetrating the depths of my being.

Divine love,
The center of my life,
The goal of my journey,
The power of my transformation.

Divine love,
Changing me and making me whole. 

Pause in the presence of this reality silently savoring the wonder of God for a 2 minute silence.

Contempative experiment

 Psalm 136: 1-5 (The Passion Translation)

Let everyone thank God, for he is good, and he is easy to please!
His tender love for us continues on forever!
Give thanks to God, our King over all gods!
His tender love for us continues on forever!
Give thanks to the Lord over all lords!
His tender love for us continues on forever!
Give thanks to the only miracle working God!
His tender love for us continues on forever!
Give thanks to the Creator who made the heavens with wisdom!
His tender love for us continues on forever!

Closing prayer

God we thank you that your tender love continues on forever,
Love is your language,
Let us learn to speak it fluently.
Love is your culture,
Let us learn to live it joyfully.
Love is your nature,
Let us learn to practice it faithfully.
Amen

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3 comments

revrodneymarsh June 30, 2020 - 5:41 am

Thanks for this Christine… great reflection. In our secular age we have forgotten how to pray and the prayer tradition opened up by Thomas Keating has now become, I believe, a central to the church’s mission in the 21st C. Such communion with God is central to all else we do as Jesus’ followers and if we have not this life giving prayer all that we try to do becomes filled with anger instead of love. I have been meditating now for 15 years in the John Main tradition of the Worldwide Community for Christian Meditation. This has become a central discipline in my life – two periods of 30min stillness and silence – and it has revolutionised my life and discipleship. This meditation is “Christian” in the sense that it follows the teaching of the desert fathers and mothers passed on by John Cassian. It is very similar to modern mindfulness (observe the breath and return to it when your thoughts wander) and to many forms of meditation in other religious tradtions and the practise uses the repitition of a sacred word (John Main suggests a NT prayer – Maranatha = come Lord Jesus). First we still our body then our mind and rest in communion with God. I suggest those interested listen to John Main himself explain in his Gethemane talks (https://meditatiotalks.wccm.org/cd/tjUxF3zmY9D2nTKHFgA6) or Laurence Freeman on “The Tradition of Meditation for a Time of Crisis.”(https://meditatiotalks.wccm.org/cd/AY2oTmSk89bm4LURo4Xk). Other details and online groups to join can be found at the WCCM website (WCCM.org)

Reply
Christine Sine June 30, 2020 - 9:20 am

Thanks Roney. I definitely need to look at this method of meditation too. So much to learn.

Reply
revrodneymarsh July 1, 2020 - 2:05 am

Thanks Christine. A vital area of ministry for the 21st C.

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