Contemplative prayer is a tool that can help us grow in intimacy with Jesus.
This form of prayer has been often misunderstood, as it has been defined in both correct and incorrect ways. Firstly, do not allow discouragement or the errors out there push you away from a deeper relationship with God. Secondly, contemplative prayer is not the repeating some holy word to get our minds quiet as in non-Christian forms of meditation which has unfortunately polluted some folks’ view of contemplation (one specific teaching to avoid is called centering prayer, read this post by Connie Rossini about why here).
Let’s define contemplative prayer as it is meant to be:
Contemplative prayer is about enjoying a close relationship with God and setting aside time to behold the beauty of Jesus. As defined in the dictionary, the word contemplation simply means “the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time.” “Thoughtfully” is a key word here: Full of thought that is focused on Jesus, Holy Spirit and the Word, which is very different than an emptying of the mind. We want to think and ponder on things that are godly, Christlike and pure, not sinful or worldly things (Philippians 4:8); we want to be a pure home for God’s Spirit.
We spend focused time looking upon the beauty of Jesus and thinking on the truths in His Word. As we do so, we are transformed. These very things come alive within our hearts as we experience His love and as He gives us revelation. We want God’s written Word to lead us to the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
As we quiet our souls and focus only on God, we position ourselves to experience His love for us and the beauty of our future heavenly home. This “beholding of His beauty” changes things on the inside of us: As we see His heart and beauty, we also begin to reflect His heart and beauty to those around us.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
In addition, contemplative prayer involves communing with God’s Holy Spirit, who lives inside of us. This communion happens as we give time to lovingly dialogue with His Spirit within us in worship and conversation. We also fellowship with God’s Spirit by intentionally talking with Him throughout each day. Doing so helps us grow in holiness and live by God’s Spirit, affecting all we think, say and do.
At its core, the aim of contemplative prayer is to specifically focus on enjoying friendship with Jesus. This differs from intercessory prayer, which focuses on praying for the needs of people or concerning specific issues affecting our world.
The focus of contemplation is Jesus Himself and knowing Him more intimately, and this is the very thing our Bridegroom Messiah says is eternal life:
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3 (NKJV)
It is important to clarify that the word for “know” in the above verse comes from the same word used to define the knowing shared by a husband and wife in intimacy, an expression of the closest union found in human relationships. Likewise, Jesus–our Bridegroom and King–yearns to have the closest relationship possible with us, even on this side of eternity.
Spend time today in intimacy with your Savior, quieting your soul from all distractions so you can experience the depths of His love. Ask God to show you the superior pleasures of knowing Him and to help you in beholding His beauty.
When your thoughts wander into daily tasks or worries vying for your attention, do not stress but write them down, and then simply pray, asking the Father’s help, or sing worship to Him. Again fix your gaze on Jesus and His Word, loving on Him and letting Him pour out His love on you. I hope this taste of information on contemplative prayer helps you in your journey.