Tag Archives: contemplative prayer

Contemplative Prayer and Soul Care…

     For readers who followed Listening on the Journey… during 2017, you may recall my theme for that year was Soul Care Discovery. During 2017, I was introduced to contemplative (listening) prayer. This discovery led me not only to an amazing new dimension of soul care but also to the faraway land of Spain where I was privileged to participate in an educational pilgrimage and 4-day contemplative prayer retreat.

     I’m far from an expert on the spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer. As I continue to practice silent ‘listening’ prayer, however, I’m experiencing a quietude of spirit I’ve never known before, and my soul longs for more!

     One recent Sunday, I celebrated another birthday. (Oh, my, they seem to arrive more quickly each year!) A portion of my special day was spent strolling with my husband through the beautiful Manito Gardens in Spokane, Washington.

     Today’s post includes photos Ron took during our late spring Manito Garden birthday walk as well as some of my insights regarding contemplative prayer.

     Each birthday and each new season assure us the world in which we live keeps changing. I hope these photos and thoughts will remind you that despite our always-changing worlds, we can trust in a never-changing God.

Blessings on your journey of ‘listening…’

Sue Reeve

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

Listening Prayerfully—a Lifelong Journey…

     Many years ago, when I was still mired in the grind of full-time employment, a childhood dream of authoring a book began to niggle at the periphery of my imagination.

     I attended some writer’s workshops. Instructors always advised ‘wannabe’ authors to write their manuscript before giving it a title.

     I rarely heed that advice.

     From that season of imagining, I knew the title of a book—if I ever wrote one—would be Listening on the Journey… (I hadn’t heard of blogging in those days.) Always, an ellipsis at the end signified the enduring nature of lifelong listening.

     If you’ve read my blog posts for any length of time, you’ll recognize the recurrent theme of “listening…”

     My recent educational pilgrimage to Spain included several days learning about and practicing contemplative prayer. Sometimes referred to as “listening” prayer,” the practice of contemplative prayer focuses more on “being” with God than “talking to” or “doing for” God.

     The group of “pilgrims” I traveled and learned with in Spain met each evening for a time of devotion, communion and sharing. Debbie, our group leader, invited me to present a devotional talk during one session, and the title, not surprisingly, included a “listening” theme.

     My next few blog posts will include the contents of my pilgrimage devotional talk, plus some additional insights learned during this amazing experience.

Part 1 – We all start somewhere!

     Although prayer has been part of my life since I was a little girl, I became intentional in my prayer journey about 15 years ago when a guy in our life group—a fellow who was militant about goal setting—insisted we MUST set a spiritual goal for the approaching new year.

     Even though I was accustomed to setting goals, and, by the way, equally accustomed to not achieving most, I had never considered a spiritual goal.

     It seemed…well, to be truthful, simply unspiritual.

     This man’s suggestion, though, kept nagging at me, and finally I wrote down one spiritual goal for the upcoming year: I want to learn to be a better pray-er.

     The result of that single, one-sentence goal changed the trajectory of my prayer journey. Even though I’d never heard of nor considered a contemplative lifestyle, in retrospect, I realize I’d embarked on one. Every morning that year—and for nearly two additional years, I awakened to a blaring alarm clock at 4:30 a.m., drug my weary bones out of bed and shuffled on slipper-clad feet to the little granite topped desk my husband had built me.

     For 60 to 90 minutes morning after morning, I sipped coffee and drank in the truth of Scripture. I learned writing prayers in my journal was the way I communicated most effectively with my Heavenly Father. Initially, I felt guilty praying this way. Surely, writing out quiet prayers wasn’t the way “anointed” prayer had been modeled for me in my faith tradition!

     Gradually, however, the guilt lessened, and I adopted an attitude of, “Well, if it was good enough for David, who was not only deeply flawed, but a man after God’s own heart… and, good enough for Paul, who boasted in his weakness… then I guess it might be okay for ‘Grandma Susie,’ who is certainly flawed deeply and filled with a ton of weaknesses.”

     Those first few years were exhilarating. I read every book on prayer I could find. I attended prayer seminars. In fact, I organized a one-day women’s seminar at my home church entitled, “Your Answer Starts with Prayer.” Over 100 women attended, and many told me it was life changing. I was learning that prayer isn’t a boring discipline. In fact,

A JOURNEY OF LISTENING PRAYER IS AN ADVENTURE—AN ADVENTURE INTO THE UNKNOWN!

     Then, one morning, I was reminded of an uncomfortable truth. As I drove to work, I read the recently-changed reader board at Davis Donuts. The local corner business is a hometown gathering place for neighbors who enjoy the camaraderie of swigging morning coffee and munching donuts together. The sign declared:

     “A Journey without obstacles will never be an adventure.”

     My next post will unpack potential obstacles we may encounter when embarking seriously on a prayer journey.

What about you?

  • What types of life situations or challenges have motivated you to examine your prayer journey?
  • What “wins” have you enjoyed?
  • What obstacles have you encountered?
  • What prayer practices have you found most helpful?

I would love to receive your feedback!

Until next time…

Sue Reeve

On our journey of prayer, we must all start somewhere. Certainly, this beautiful basilica I visited in Spain, creates an environment inspiring prayer. Serene cathedrals created by nature, such as this one on a North Idaho lake, also encourages one to communicate with the Almighty.

 

Listening Prayerfully—a Lifelong Journey…

Many years ago, when I was still mired in the grind of full-time employment, a childhood dream of authoring a book began to niggle at the periphery of my imagination.

I attended some writer’s workshops. Instructors always advised ‘wannabe’ authors to write their manuscript before giving it a title.

I rarely heed that advice.

From that season of imagining, I knew the title of a book—if I ever wrote one—would be Listening on the Journey… (I hadn’t heard of blogging in those days.) Always, an ellipsis at the end signified the enduring nature of lifelong listening.

If you’ve read my blog posts for any length of time, you’ll recognize the recurrent theme of “listening…”

My recent educational pilgrimage to Spain included several days learning about and practicing contemplative prayer. Sometimes referred to as “listening” prayer,” the practice of contemplative prayer focuses more on “being” with God than “talking to” or “doing for” God.

The group of “pilgrims” I traveled and learned with in Spain met each evening for a time of devotion, communion and sharing. Debbie, our group leader, invited me to present a devotional talk during one session, and the title, not surprisingly, included a “listening” theme.

My next few blog posts will include the contents of my pilgrimage devotional talk, plus some additional insights learned during this amazing experience.

Part 1 – We all start somewhere!

Although prayer has been part of my life since I was a little girl, I became intentional in my prayer journey about 15 years ago when a guy in our life group—a fellow who was militant about goal setting—insisted we MUST set a spiritual goal for the approaching new year.

Even though I was accustomed to setting goals, and, by the way, equally accustomed to not achieving most, I had never considered a spiritual goal.

It seemed…well, to be truthful, simply unspiritual.

This man’s suggestion, though, kept nagging at me, and finally I wrote down one spiritual goal for the upcoming year: I want to learn to be a better pray-er.

The result of that single, one-sentence goal changed the trajectory of my prayer journey. Even though I’d never heard of nor considered a contemplative lifestyle, in retrospect, I realize I’d embarked on one. Every morning that year—and for nearly two additional years, I awakened to a blaring alarm clock at 4:30 a.m., drug my weary bones out of bed and shuffled on slipper-clad feet to the little granite topped desk my husband had built me.

For 60 to 90 minutes morning after morning, I sipped coffee and drank in the truth of Scripture. I learned writing prayers in my journal was the way I communicated most effectively with my Heavenly Father. Initially, I felt guilty praying this way. Surely, writing out quiet prayers wasn’t the way “anointed” prayer had been modeled for me in my faith tradition!

Gradually, however, the guilt lessened, and I adopted an attitude of, “Well, if it was good enough for David, who was not only deeply flawed, but a man after God’s own heart… and, good enough for Paul, who boasted in his weakness… then I guess it might be okay for ‘Grandma Susie,’ who is certainly flawed deeply and filled with a ton of weaknesses.”

Those first few years were exhilarating. I read every book on prayer I could find. I attended prayer seminars. In fact, I organized a one-day women’s seminar at my home church entitled, “Your Answer Starts with Prayer.” Over 100 women attended, and many told me it was life changing. I was learning that prayer isn’t a boring discipline. In fact,

A JOURNEY OF LISTENING PRAYER IS AN ADVENTURE—AN ADVENTURE INTO THE UNKNOWN!

Then, one morning, I was reminded of an uncomfortable truth. As I drove to work, I read the recently-changed reader board at Davis Donuts. The local corner business is a hometown gathering place for neighbors who enjoy the camaraderie of swigging morning coffee and munching donuts together. The sign declared:

“A Journey without obstacles will never be an adventure.”

My next post will unpack potential obstacles we may encounter when embarking seriously on a prayer journey.

What about you?

  • What types of life situations or challenges have motivated you to examine your prayer journey?
  • What “wins” have you enjoyed?
  • What obstacles have you encountered?
  • What prayer practices have you found most helpful?

I would love to receive your feedback!

Until next time…

Sue Reeve

On our journey of prayer, we must all start somewhere. Certainly, this beautiful basilica I visited in Spain, creates an environment inspiring prayer. Serene cathedrals created by nature, such as this one on a North Idaho lake, also encourages one to communicate with the Almighty.