Thursday, March 19, 2015

P4E.260 The Spiritual Discipline of Contemplative Prayer

Our numbers rarely approach 100 when we meet on Sunday mornings at the Community Clubhouse.  Almost all of us are over 50 years of age.  Many share in common that we've experienced protestant evangelical Christianity in all of its mega-church grandiosity and have opted out.

Our leader prefers to call us a "spiritual community" rather than a "church."  He's the son of a prominent pastor with whom he had well documented disagreements, personal and theological.  They've come to a peaceful place in their relationship, but our mentor doesn't want to be referred to as a pastor.  Even if the shoe fits.

There is no "worship team" performing "contemporary Christian worship music."  Our gatherings usually begin with a time of silence.  We're reminded that our purpose, as a community, is to experience God.  We present ourselves to God and He meets us where we are.  "Get in a comfortable position," we're urged.  Sometimes we're encouraged to focus on our breathing:

Inhale grace.  Exhale judgment.
Inhale peace.  Exhale anxiousness.
Inhale love.  Exhale fear.

The tone of a brass bowl gong fills the air and we begin our contemplative prayer time with God.  Thoughts of the past or the future might come into our minds.  We acknowledge them and let them slip away, leaving room to hear from God; to experience Him.  If someone were to walk in during the next ten minutes or so, they would find all souls sitting in silence with eyes closed, breathing fully and deeply; at peace.  Personally, I have found myself feeling as though I'm floating on a cloud, with the breeze flowing past me; an exhilarating, yet peaceful experience.  The gong is struck, giving notice that we are about to come out of our meditation and then again to complete it.

-        -        -

The spiritual discipline we are practicing is something that may, ironically, slip past many Christians: The practice of seeking God.  In our sensory overloaded, confused, and distracted world it seems that many of us have a case of self-inflicted ADHD.  We need to move.  We're compelled to act, read, sing, pray, volunteer, and teach.  But, what we seldom have the spiritual discipline to do is to simply sit in silence, focus, and experience Him whom we claim to love.

The harvest of spiritual discipline is spiritual fruit.  When I'm able to tune everything else out and experience God, I feel love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in His presence.  They infuse my heart.

When I experience Him from the inside out, I more easily understand my place in the world.  I'm much less likely to judge and much more likely to live with my neighbor in an understanding way.  Instead of forcing myself to perform Christianity, I am calm in the knowledge that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.  If God is in my heart, I'm not anxious about what I'm supposed to say.  Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

The practice of contemplative prayer acknowledges the high value that Scripture places on being slow to speak, being slow to anger, and patience.

I wait for the Lord.
He hears me.
He lends help, strength, and courage.
He gives hope and rest.
He saves me.

Of course, being human, I will fall short.  And, that's OK.  Then, I must have the spiritual discipline to be reminded that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be; allowing God to extend His grace towards me.  And, begin again to pursue Him by getting closer and experiencing Him more deeply and intimately.

This piece was written as part of The High Calling Writer Network community link-up theme: Spiritual Disciplines Christian 
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