there are quite a few topics for blogging on my mind at the moment, so hopefully that means there will be quite a few entries on here in the next few days. today's topic: contemplative prayer.
probably so many different ideas come to mind when you read that phrase, or maybe nothing comes to mind at all. we in the protestant church have largely missed out on this amazing way to encounter God when we rejected all things catholic (or orthodox) and leaned too far in the separation from those before us in the body, largely championed by luther. all contemplative prayer really is, is using the word of God to encounter God and have a revelation of Jesus in our hearts. this was what the desert fathers spent their lives on and what has been termed by some as christian mediation - instead of an emptying of the mind it is a filling of the mind on a single focus, a single passage of the Bible, or a single revelation of Jesus in the word.
we are in the midst of building a house of prayer under the covering of bethel church currently called the watch of the Lord (website to come soon!). this house of prayer looks much like the international house of prayer in kansas city and blends corporate intercession, devotional prayer and worship, and contemplative prayer to bless and build up the body of Christ in our region. i had the opportunity to teach a mini lesson on contemplative prayer this week to the fifth grade class at bethel christian school in order to start training them up to take part actively in our growing house of prayer. i am going to share here what i shared with them.
i am going to lay out here for you the four very basic steps of contemplative prayer. i am sure many of you are much more versed in this than i am and could teach this in much more depth and revelation. i also know there are those reading who may not have the guts to ask, how do i do that? so, hence, the simple four steps here as either an intro or a refresher in contemplative prayer.
1. read the passage.
this i like to do aloud. i will usually take a passage that is intended to bring revelation of Jesus, such as colossians 1 that focuses on His divinity or philippians 2 that exalts His humility. the psalms are also a great place to start as well, as many of them are written by king david as he reflected on God's activity in His life. many psalms also give us so much prophesy about the Messiah who is Jesus of nazareth. i will first read the passage in its entirety to give me context for what i will be praying. even alone in my room i will read it aloud. there is something that engages my heart on a deeper level when my ears can hear my mouth declaring the truths in the Scriptures.
2. ask the Lord, what does this mean?
this i usually do quietly, though there has been times when i will speak the question aloud to the Lord, what is this trying to tell me about You? then be quiet and listen. at this point i may isolate a phrase at a time and i allow for the Holy Spirit to not only give me a revelation of Jesus (ephesians 1:17), but also a very personal revelation of Jesus and His interactions with me. the Bible says that when we gaze on His beauty we are changed into His likeness (2 corinthians 3:18). this is my opportunity to quiet my heart from the busyness of life all around me and gaze upon Him. one thing that i am reminded of often is when Jesus rebuked the pharisees saying they searched the scriptures for eternal life, but they didn't realize that all the Scriptures spoke of Him. (john 5:39) what an amazing statement! i want to have a deeper revelation of Jesus in any passage i read from the old testament or the new because that is what Jesus promised us - they exist to bring revelation of Him!
3. pray or sing the passage.
this next step i do aloud every time. whether it is a whispered prayer or a song sung at the top of our lungs, it is so important to put this on our lips. i will take the literal words in the Bible,then also expand on it in my own words, and sing God's word back to Him. when i taught the 5th grade students, who did amazing by the way, i used psalms 23. i isolated the first 2 verses first and sang (this can be done with or without an instrument), Lord, You are my shepherd. i shall not be in want. You are the One who leads me and guides me. You protect me. You guide me and i do not need to fear that i will not know the way. You are my shepherd and You take care of me. i may spend a long time on the isolated verse and let the Lord work it into my heart until i begin to really believe it. i may spend my whole prayer time in just the first couple verses or i may get through the whole passage praying and singing it. this just varies based on the revelation i am getting in the moment or the time i have to spend in it.
i want to encourage everyone to venture in singing the passage back to the Lord. i know that everyone wasn't blessed with the rockstar voices that others were, but when you are alone in the car or shower i know you sing without restraint. don't deny it. so, slip away into a place where you can be alone for a bit and try it. there is something so powerful about singing and putting words to a melody. when i was young and in grade school i struggled in spelling. my dad and mom would make up a melody to practice my spelling words and it cemented the correct spellings in my mind where mere repetition didn't seem to stick. think of how many lyrics to songs you have memorized, even commercials on tv, and yet how many Scriptures do you have by memory? probably the ones you can recall the fastest are the ones you have heard put to music and made into lyrics of songs. my point exactly. sing the Scripture and it will stick. pray it too, but try the singing. i trust you will like it.
4. ask the Holy Spirit to make this alive to your heart.
when i am wrapping up my time in contemplative prayer i say a short whispered prayer, Holy Spirit make this alive in my heart. i want to know Jesus. it doesn't have to be fancy, just let Him know you want to grow in revelation and want your heart to come alive when you open the Word of God.
it may feel a little clumsy at first when you try it out, but i strongly urge you - try it out! when we have new people join the watch of the Lord usually after singing on their first set they all say, my heart felt alive! it can do the same for you. the Bible should never be boring. if it is, there is something in us that needs to change and this is such a great tool to have our hearts change from the inside out. try it today.