Contemplative Prayer: A Quiet Communion with God
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret…
Prayer: Restoring Intimacy with God
Without prayer, we find ourselves rudderless in a world of sin. Prayer restores intimacy with the Creator, and this intimacy emboldens our faith, allowing us to live in a freer way; to live out of love and not fear, even in a fearful world. We become aware of God’s eternal presence. We learn to trust even the dry deserts that must be crossed in order to enter into God’s promise of peace. We learn to not only face but to meet with grace the challenges that surely must come with authentic discipleship to Jesus Christ, using them for a greater share in him.
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Outwardly, prayer can take many forms. Inwardly, however, the prayerful attitude, the heart of prayer, is the same. One must consider the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer in order to begin to understand what this attitude is like. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask only that God’s name be hallowed; that God’s will be done and that his kingdom come on earth as it already is in the heavens. Even the petition for “daily bread”, when we look at the original Greek, is likely a petition not for earthly bread but for the Bread of Life that comes from God. The prayerful attitude is one of surrender, humility, openness, self-gifting. When we pray we desire to give ourselves wholly to God. When this self-gifting moves beyond discourse into a quiet intimacy – much like a marriage moves beyond converse into love-making – is when prayer becomes contemplative prayer.
What is contemplative prayer?
The word contemplative comes from the Latin contemplatio. We often use the word to denote “ruminating” or “thinking about” something. If someone is considering making an important decision, we might say that they are “contemplating” taking a certain action. This is not in keeping with the original meaning of the word. The word historically means “to behold” something. When I am struck by the beauty of a tree or a comely mountain, in that speechless encounter I contemplate the tree or the mountain. Contemplative prayer is prayer that moves beyond discursive thought and imagination into encounter. It is the very kind of encounter with God that the Apostles had when they met Jesus face to face, we might say especially the risen Jesus. Spoken language can be a messy arrangement of meanings entangled in the ever changing world. A word may have several meanings, but the Word—God’s Word – only has one, and that one meaning is beyond meaning. Through contemplative prayer we begin to enter this essential truth.
Where can you learn more about invoking the purifying power of contemplative prayer?
Mons Nubifer Sanctus (Latin for “Holy Cloud Bearing Mountain”) is a Christian retreat center located in the northwestern Catskill Mountains of New York State. We focus on silent retreats where people gain a hands-on training in contemplative prayer through immersion. Our aim is to revitalize and embolden disciples for authentic Christian witness in the world, witness to the transfiguring peace of God that Christ desires for each one of us.
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Mons Nubifer Sanctus is a spiritual retreat center focused on training in contemplative prayer. We offer many different programs, instructing and equipping disciples to experience the presence of God.
Why would contemplative prayer be beneficial for you?
Though there is much to commend our society, the underlying vision of the human being’s destiny that drives secular humanism is ultimately a dead end. In addition to a limited understanding of the human person that keeps us chained to time and death, technology combined with chronic anxiety have served to break down our ability to make solid boundaries and to be comfortable in silence, in unscheduled time, and in open space. This has served to stifle the differentiation and inner quiet that is necessary to discover the deep truths of our personhood and being. As a result, we are over-connected and yet disengaged; over-fed and yet undernourished; over-active and yet moving in tightening circles. We are constantly being pulled in different directions, our many desires lead to inner conflict, while a deadly distance inches its way in between ourselves and God. Work, family, politics, entertainment: while perhaps bringing some fleeting pleasure and good, these do not address our deepest selves, nor do they strengthen us to make the journey that is eternal. Simply praying from the surface or going through the motions does little to alleviate the secret conflicts of our souls. Indeed, after engaging the Christian life for a time and not seeing authentic change, many people wind up losing faith. This is precisely because they have not been taught, or have been themselves unwilling, to go deep and to pray deep.
Blessed Mother Teresa once said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Not only does contemplative prayer help us to touch and be in touch with our own souls, but it helps us to better and more deeply address the problems of the world. When our soul is at rest, when we have cleared and quieted our hearts and made them a throne room for God, we are able to bring others into this silence. We can stand among the anxious and fearful crowds of this world as an instance of the peace of God. The world desperately needs people who will be courageous enough to differentiate in this way, who will be willing take responsibility for the turmoil that is inside them, to bear it to God for healing, and to stand apart from the crowd and follow the way of peace, which is the way of our Lord.
When I say “differentiation” I am not referring to individuality and autonomy as often understood in our culture. I am talking about the differentiation, born of emotional maturity, that is necessary for love. Love can only be when two unique, differentiated persons can yet in their freedom be united as one. Mons Nubifer Sanctus is the locus of a growing community of people who wish to deepen their discipleship to Jesus Christ through the practice of contemplative prayer and the realization of this kind of love.
Seek thyself and find thy Lord
If you wish to learn more about how the practice of contemplative prayer can deepen your relationship with God, please visit monsnubifer.org to request further information. Reservations are offered for both private and group retreats. Other programs include silent prayer intensives, extended contemplative trainings, contemplative recovery from substance abuse, and even an option for lifelong membership. All of this takes place on a campus that is gloriously scenic with historic architecture, making it the perfect venue for cleansing the spirit. The knowledgeable staff of Mons Nubifer Sanctus will deliver an experience that will assuredly help to establish a deeper intimacy with the Lord.
- See http://catholicism.org/give-us-this-day-our-supersubstantial-bread.html for a discussion of this translation issue.↩