The word contemplation is a combination of the Latin prefix “con” which means “with or together” and “temple” which means a “place reserved for and regarded as occupied by divine presence.” So, with Silent prayer, we are “reserving a time and place to be with God and occupied by His presence.”
Silent Prayer is an opportunity to create space for three things:
In the silent prayer space, we set aside purposeful time to “behold the beauty of the Lord and meditate in His temple” (Ps 27:4).
There are many different methods for practicing this type of prayer, and you need to do what works for you. There is no “right” way. Here are some helpful suggestions:
One young student in this practice was complaining to her teacher about the thousand thoughts that distracted her while she was practicing her discipline. The teacher responded, saying gently, “Oh my friend, not a thousand distractions but simply a thousand opportunities to turn your mind back to Jesus!” When it wanders, do not beat yourself up or think you are doing something wrong, just come back to gazing at God by saying the word or phrase if this helps.
I have heard the metaphor that Silent Prayer is like gazing at a river. As you gaze, many interesting things may pass by. Some will be yucky debris (like your negative thoughts and emotions) or shiny and beautiful boats (positive thoughts and emotions). Whether positive or negative, do not climb onto the things passing by, just let them float by and immerse yourself in the life-giving waters of the river of God’s presence!
A Personal Testimony
Many years ago, when my mother-in-law yelled at a car that had cut in front of her, my four-year-old exclaimed, “My mom yells at cars too!” My son is now in his 30s, and I had tried for years to undo this unsavory example to my children, but it was to no avail.
I didn’t become more intentional about this kind of prayer because I wanted to stop yelling at cars, but after a few months of this daily practice, I noticed that I wasn’t yelling at cars anymore. I also noticed that when something stressful or negative happened, I was responding with more peace, sensing God’s presence and responding to God in the moment rather than reacting to the circumstance. That is when I was convinced of the value of this practice in my life.
Silent/Centering Prayer in Community
While this is an exercise in solitude, many find it beneficial to do this with others. There is a beauty in doing it in community even though there is no sharing or talking during the time. It also keeps one accountable to the practice. There are many Silent/Centering Prayer groups around the world. For more information contact me via the Contact Form!