Forming a Contemplative Prayer Group…

      Last Monday, I told you about the formation of a contemplative ‘listening’ prayer group I believe the Spirit prompted me to begin during a time of silence when I was on my recent educational pilgrimage to Spain.

      I promised to provide some information in case you would like to begin your own group.

      Before I do, however, I’d like to give a bit of context concerning my understanding of contemplative prayer—also called ‘silent,’ ‘centering,’ or my favorite, ‘listening’ prayer.

      I imagine silence as one stanza of Heaven’s music. When we’re in our eternal home, I have no doubt there’ll be times of loud, joyful music that will cause us to clap, wave our arms and dance. (Thankfully, in Heaven, my celestial perfection will include a good sense of rhythm!) I also imagine times of worshipful chanting or heavenly humming. But, I feel certain, there will be times when melody and beat will be inadequate, and all we’ll be able to do is worship silently.

      Silent prayer doesn’t replace scriptural suggestions to praise God, pray for one another, ask for good gifts or make our requests known to God.

      Christian contemplation, while outwardly similar to other types of meditation, doesn’t release the one contemplating from conscious thought, but as I’ve experienced, focuses on the connection of my spirit to God’s Holy Spirit.

      Father Javier Melloni, the Jesuit priest who facilitated the contemplative prayer retreat I attended in Manresa, described contemplative prayer beautifully as being:

Present to the Presence

     Following is the process our women’s contemplative ‘listening’ prayer group uses.

     We begin the silent portion of our group fifteen minutes after arrival, which gives everyone a chance to get a cup of coffee or glass of water. I’ve cautioned participants beforehand that the door will be locked once we begin our silence.

     First, assume a comfortable posture you can remain in for the duration of silence, such as:

  • Seated with feet on the floor and hands either up or down on your lap
  • Kneeling
  • Sitting cross legged on the floor
  • Yoga child’s pose

     Prepare by taking a few deep, slow breaths—breathing in through your nose and out through your nose. Focus on God as you breathe, for without God, we would have no breath.

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God created me,
and the breath of the Almighty gave me life.

     Choose a sacred word or phrase, and silently align that word to your breathing. A few suggestions:

  • I am yours; You are mine.
  • Spirit, come.
  • Come, Lord Jesus,
  • Abba Father.
  • Jesus

     It may help to visualize a place or scene:

  • By a gently flowing river
  • As a wave on the ocean (I am the wave; God is the ocean)
  • Soaking in welcoming warm sunlight
  • In a peaceful lush, green field

     Why silence? ‘Listening’ prayer is about being rather than doing, saying or thinking

     We will use the Centering Prayer app. (This is a free download if you’d like to check it out. I use it almost every day in my personal devotions.)

     After we’ve breathed and decided on our sacred word or phrase, I read an opening prayer or scripture, which is provided on the app.

     There will then be an opening sound of strings which goes on for about a minute. You can use this time to simply breath or praying, praising or expressing thanksgiving to yourself.

     When the music stops, a period of silence begins. Our group will use ten minutes, which is what I generally use in my personal devotional time.

  • Avoid distractions.
  • Since this is a deeply intimate time spiritually, tears may come. Have a tissue handy just in case.
  • You’ll probably want to have your eyes closed. This is not a time for reading or journaling.
  • If your mind begins to wander (and it probably will) or you start thinking that you are doing it wrong, let that thought go and gently return to rhythmic breathing and your sacred word(s). If you become distracted by your breath, treat this as another “thought” and gently return to your sacred word(s).

     At the end of the 10 minutes, there will be a closing sound (I chose three gongs, each a little softer than the one before.)

     At conclusion of the gongs, I read a closing prayer or scripture.

     Immediately, we begin the Lectio Divina segment, remaining in silence for 15 additional minutes. You may want to change positions at this point. Have your Bible, journal and pen handy.

In Christianity, Lectio Divina is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. Wikipedia

  • Choose a brief passage of Scripture.
  • Read slowly and prayerfully, listening with your heart to what the Lord may be speaking to you.
  • If you come to a phrase—or even a single word—that resonates, remain there. Read and re-read. Ponder with your heart. Don’t worry about reading any further if you don’t want to do so.
  • Write down the verse(s), phrase or word.
  • Reflect prayerfully upon it.
    • What are your thoughts? Jot them down.
  • What ‘action step’ do you think the Spirit is prompting you to take as a result?
    • When will you do that?
    • How will you incorporate the message of this scripture into your day today?
  • Write a brief prayer.

     For our remaining minutes, we’ll check in, and then, dismiss to begin our everyday routines.

     That’s the format of our contemplative prayer group in a nutshell. If you would like more information, please contact me at sue.reeve.cda@gmail.com, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Blessings as you ‘listen…’

     Sue Reeve

Saying, “Yes, WHAT…”

A ‘Listening’ Prayer Group Begins!

     You may recall recent blog posts I’ve written about coming to a juncture in the road on our journeys of faith when we must decide:

Will I take the Road of “Yes, BUT…” or

Will I take the Road of “Yes, WHAT…?”

     Wouldn’t you know it, I came to that juncture as I was writing the article. (How clever of God to use my own words to speak not only to ‘thee,’ but also to ‘me!’)

     While on my educational pilgrimage in Spain, during a time of silence, I felt the Spirit suggesting I facilitate a contemplative women’s group in which silent “listening” prayer was introduced and practiced.

     As I thought more and more about such a group, I envisioned an early-morning gathering—an oasis for busy, pressured women—a safe and sacred way to begin days that are often scheduled tightly, brimming with both good and not-so-good stressors.

     Of course, my thoughts turned toward the obstacles. I found many good reasons to say, “Lord, I think this is a great idea, BUT…”

     Saying, “Yes, WHAT…” to God doesn’t mean the road will be free of hindrances. To say, “Yes,” we may need to say, “No” to something else.

     “No” to my own convenience or desire.

     “No” to a friend or loved one’s legitimate, but non-essential request.

     “No” to fear or insecurity.

     “No” to the enemy of my soul who always wants to distract me away from doing the good work to which God is calling me.

     Since one of my core values is “Integrity–honesty at the core—the same person in private as I am in public, (which, by the way, is frequently an ‘aspirational’ rather than ‘actual’ value!) I decided I needed ‘to practice what I preach,’ ‘to do as I say.’ Rather than making excuses, I simply said, “Yes, Lord…” and went for it.

     One recent morning, bright and early, a group of eight women—all who also had been willing to say, “Yes, WHAT…” gathered at our home. For one hour we shared a bit, but mostly, we prayed silently and practiced a brief Lectio Divina (prayerful Scripture reading and journaling). After one hour we returned to our normal activities.

     I’m excited about this group. I anticipate the Lord will knit our kindred spirits together in love and unity.

     In my next post, I’ll give you the simple structure of our newly formed group. I’ll also provide some direction and insight in case you’re interested in forming such a group or beginning your own journey of ‘listening’ prayer.

Until we ‘chat’ again, blessings on your journey of listening…

Sue Reeve

A busy holiday weekend visit and lots of family activities, including hosting dinner and a dessert open house, were some of my “Yes, BUT…” reasons for delaying the ‘Listening’ Prayer Group. (left to right, bottom: Sydney, oldest granddaughter; Emalynn, youngest granddaughter; Sarah, younger daughter; top Angie, older daughter; yours truly, ‘Grandma Susie.’)

Honing the Craft of Communication …

Let the words of my mouth…be acceptable in thy sight,
O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:24

     I saw a quote the other day, which triggered recent thoughts I’ve had concerning pleasant communication.

      Green said, “You can be direct without being rude and you can be assertive without being disagreeable.[1]

     I’m convinced good communication is an art form. Some folks have more innate giftedness with words than others, but every one of us can improve the craft of effective, grace-filled communication.

     I’m a verbal person by nature. My mom has told me more than once about how as a wee tyke, I would string every word in my limited vocabulary together, creating unintelligible sentences, complete with a variety of inflections. My first-grade teacher wrote on my report card: “Susan is bright. She scored high on her reading tests. Susan talks too much.”

     Indeed, every strength has its pollution!

     Not only do I tend to “talk too much,” just like my first-grade teacher reported. I’m also inclined to speak too quickly. Let me assure you, words have caused me trouble on more than one occasion!

     Many mornings, my prayer echoes this one found in Psalms 141:3:

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.

     Because verbalization can be a challenging area, I’ve given this matter a lot of thought and have identified three communication possibilities.

  1. First, I can REACT – Reaction generally is a rapid verbal response when I disagree or feel angry.
  2. Though not generally my first choice, sometimes I REPRESS – Repression causes me to stuff my verbal response. While I may keep my mouth shut, my body language generally speaks volumes.
  3. With prayer and practice, I’m learning the value of RESPONDING – I allow myself time to think before I speak. I consider what words are appropriate to say at the time and what words are better left unsaid.

     Here’s what I’ve found happens with each communication possibility:

     Reactions often lead to regret and ruination of relationships.

     Repression often leads to resentment or even revulsion.

     Responding often leads to resolution and restoration.

     When Ms. Green suggests being, “direct without being rude and…assertive without being disagreeable,” I believe she’s referring to a person who’s learned the communication skill of responding.

     I like acronyms, and probably my favorite is one that helps me hone the communication art of response: THINK.

     Before I speak, THINK:

          T – Are the words I’m about to speak TRUE?

          H – Will they be HELPFUL?

          I – Are the words INSPIRATIONAL?

          N – Are they NECESSARY?

          K – Are the words KIND?

     Because I’m prone to talking too much and rarely am at a loss for something to say, I’ve found the “N” reminder to be especially helpful.

     I hope these words I’ve written today have met the “H” and “I” criteria.

     My prayer is that you will give and receive many “T” and “K” words this day!

Sue Reeve

Some of the words spoken during our Mother’s Day family time were sweet!

(Sydney, center, our firstborn grandchild; Emmi, left, our third granddaughter; and Reeve, right, our youngest grandchild and second grandson.)

Others were silly!!

  1. http://www.askamanager.org/