Contemplative prayer increases our awareness of God’s presence. When I live with this constant awareness, I live in a way that manifests God’s love. They are part of the paradox of growing deeper in our relationship with God. There is nothing that I can do to deepen this relationship. It is all gift from God. However, we can make ourselves available for God’s shaping. This is the function of contemplative prayer. The various forms offer tools to assist us in being still and allowing God to shape us.
There is a story told of a group of westerners who travel to Africa for a site-seeing trip. They are eager to see a lot of the country in their allotted week, so they hire a guide to make the most of their time. On the first day of the trip, they get up very, very early and they go very, very fast, and very, very far. On the second day of the trip, they get up very, very early and they go very, very fast, and very, very far. On the third day of the trip, (guess what??) they get up very, very early and they go very, very fast, and very, very far. On the fourth day of the trip, they get up very, very early and they can’t find the guide. They finally locate him in his tent and say “come on! We have a lot of ground to cover. We need to get going. The guide does not move, but says, “Every day we have gotten up very, very early, gone very, very fast, and gone very, very far. Today I’m going to stay here and wait for my soul to catch up!”
This is facetious, but true to life, isn’t it?! We live frantic lives, drop in to bed each night, and then do it again the next day. When do we make time for our souls to catch up? When do we make time to be with God? To answer the call of the psalmist to “Be still and know that I am God?”
This class “Contemplative Prayer” answers the deep longing we have within to create time and space to be with God. We live such busy lives that we distract ourselves from this longing or try to fill it in other ways. This works at a minimal level, but does not satisfy that longing. Again, we turn to the Psalms to find it described as follows:
You God, are my God
Earnestly I seek you,
My whole being longs for you,
In a dry and parched land
Where there is no water
This longing can only be filled with deep union with God. Nothing else will satisfy. The prayer forms we will be experiencing in this class are ways to lean into God’s loving embrace. This is the listening side of prayer. It is prayer that allows God to set the agenda. Much of the prayer we are familiar with is called “active” prayer. It typically includes prayer such as praise, requests, thanksgiving, confession, and lamentation. These are wonderful ways to communicate with God. We are encouraged in scripture to do so. Yet, there is a body of prayer to which many of us have not been exposed. This prayer is called “contemplative prayer” and is the other side of the conversation.
The heart of the class is the daily assignments. This is where transformation takes place. Each lesson will have a few pages of narrative to lay the groundwork and then you will be given assignments for the week. There are no required books for this class, but there will be recommended books with some of the lessons. If you would like the entire list at the start, click here.
The six-week class offers lessons on the following topics:
|1||Introduction to Contemplative Prayer- The Listening Side of Prayer|
|3||Prayer of Examen|
Jackie L. Halstead, Ph.D., LMFT, is the founder and CEO of Selah. Her doctorate isin Human Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has been a therapist for thirty years, specializing in clergy and their families. Dr. Halstead has two certificates from Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats and in Spiritual Guidance. She has been speaking, teaching, and leading retreats on spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, relational and mental health issues for the past twenty years at the national and international levels.
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 Psalm 46:10
 Psalms 63:1-3