For contemplative prayer to be grounded, it relies on two movements of faith. The first happens when we reach for the person of Jesus Christ in his invitation to “come.” In my mind’s eye I see his arm stretched toward me, the same way it was stretched on the cross and nailed in place. His initiative beckons faith in me, because I believe he lived, was executed, then bodily rose, proving his standing in history as the only person to predict so, and live to tell about it. I reach for him whenever I purpose to kneel before God, who is Jesus on the cross.
The second movement takes contemplative prayer from a static to a transformational discipline. It’s when I grasp Him by faith, and hold on, confident that what I hold, can carry the weight of my life. My son throws his two-year old into the air, nearly touching the ceiling, so high in fact that our hearts stop for a moment. Yet, that child has learned from repeated adventure, that daddy can be trusted. The little guy’s limp body jettisoning the air, and the laughter erupting from him, reflect faith in strength. While others cringe, not wanting to look, the child is lost in a kind of revelry, abandoned to the arms of his daddy. Even in writing now I say, ‘give me some of that!‘ Two movements, a response to his initiative, and a firm knowledge He can be trusted. Contemplative prayer depends on both.
But sometimes our humanity gets in the way of these movements. There are long lists of excuses, weaknesses, distractions, sin and testing that crash upon our intentions as consistent as ocean waves. But if by faith we enter in, see the hand, redirect our faith away from ourselves to press on, I’ve learned something mysterious happens. Though the first toss in the air is mouth-agape and wide-eyed, every other toss becomes an increasingly wonderful release of the hold on control of my spirit. By toss I mean entering into contemplation. If this is not deepening love, then I don’t know what is.
But if you’re like me, you want it to happen more! What then will bring us back?
When we fight through ourselves to hear the true intention behind His words.
We naturally hear through a grid of mood, cultural context, even our history with Him. Contemplative prayer peels away what our heart has been convinced won’t happen, by refining our intentions, and thus enabling us to hear him more clearly. By design, contemplative prayer reveals God’s will on earth, as it is in heaven. That way we can put our full weight of faith upon Jesus, and believe he is present and will not be silent. We don’t ‘hear’ his word as we do human sound, the inflections, the halts and innuendo’s common to our ears, but here’s the truth, contemplative prayer brings me closer than anything else to believing the heart of God’s words. Let me illustrate:
When I receive an email from someone, it’s difficult to know what the words mean, outside of their stark definition. For instance, the sentence. “I’m having a hard time with what you shared in your last note,” can be interpreted many ways. This is where hurt feelings, and missed cues, and angst sits between two trying to convey their thoughts. However, if the email was sent from a trusted friend, I would already know their commitment to me, already have walked out a journey where trust has been established, and so I would interpret those words out of a well of empathy, a relational well, not contractual. That may be the biggest blessing of all. What we hear has been brought out of the limitless reserves of God’s supply of love. The more this happens, the better we see his outstretched arm, and feel the strength under his toss.