Faith in Formation
Contemplative Prayer Group
"Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10
The enthusiastic Contemplative Prayer Group of St. John’s (connected with the Contemplative Society) has as many as 12 members who meet in varying numbers at members homes. The 90-minute meetings are include some Taize chants, a period of Lectio Divina, and a 20-minute period of silent contemplative prayer using the Centering Prayer method, followed by reading and discussion of a relevant book. There is considerable focus on individual spirituality in the quest for greater knowledge of and experience with Christ, and the desire to live one’s life as closely as possible to how Christ would have us live it.
The group meetings provide an all-important safe environment for members to share their deeply personal experiences in a loving atmosphere of tolerance and understanding. Contemplative prayer leads to a way of spiritual thinking and understanding which, in turn, can help our daily response to life and interaction with others to be spontaneous, to improve and even to be the best it can be. As one member expressed it, “What is so important in our lives is a way to determine how inside work leads to outside work.” This strongly suggests that development and enrichment of our inner spirituality cannot help but manifest itself in how we go about living our “outward” daily lives.
Listening to the Word of God in Scripture (Lectio Divina) is a traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. Lectio Divina, literally meaning “divine reading,” is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart,” as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.
Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer – verbal, mental or affective prayer – into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasises prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.
The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to Contemplative Prayer, is the Indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. The effects of Centering Prayer are ecclesial, as the prayer tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love.
Prepared by: Doug Mitchell, June 2012
With information from: www.contemplativeoutreach.org