I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.
Contemplative prayer cultivates the more receptive side of our relationship with God, a side that most of us need to grow in. Through it we discover a new vocabulary of intimacy with God. Over the course of twenty minutes or an hour of silent prayer we also come to appreciate the transformation that takes place in us as the topic of this dialogue shifts from ourselves to God.
The first stage of our prayer is often an opportunity for us to talk to the Lord about our lives. Questions are usually the most appropriate way to dialogue at this stage. How am I doing Lord? What do you think of this or that in me? It is a time to also consider our relationship to people and circumstances. What about my friends Lord? What about so and so who is struggling right now? And what about that worrisome situation coming up Lord? We also find ourselves dialoguing with God about the inner movements of our lives. What about this deep desire that keeps welling up in me Lord? What relationship should I have to this movement? And what about those fears that keep coming back to me? Am I worrying for nothing?
In the midst of such prayers, we often sense the Lord interacting with us. Perhaps it is a fresh enthusiasm that comes to our hearts, or a gentle spirit of peace that suddenly wafts into our soul and we suspect this might be God, who is subtly communicating His presence to us.
Eventually, though, we find ourselves less concerned with details and more able to focus on the non-verbal communications we are enjoying in God. The environment of prayer has changed from an active dialogue with God to a more passive one. Our attention is now more on our relationship with the Divine than with ourselves or our circumstances.
As we alternate in and out of this more simplified prayer, we perhaps note the difference between the prayer of the mind and the prayer of the heart. We realize there is a choice to be made as to which will claim our focus. We sense an invitation from the Holy Spirit encouraging us to surrender to this call. And, like clay, we offer ourselves to Jesus for whatever He is doing in us. Our desire now is to place ourselves more completely in the Lord’s hands, trusting our Creator with our lives.
For these few and precious moments, we are truly Christ’s servants. At long last, our lives are no longer our own, but His. As living sacrifices, and out of love for our Maker, we more fully yield to His will. It is what Paul appropriately calls our “true and proper worship.”
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
1. Reflect on how the initial stages or settling into prayer unfold for you. Do you notice a shift to quietness and less verbal prayer as the time progresses?
2. The weather of the heart may vary considerably in times and seasons of prayer, moving between lightness and consolation and desolation and darkness. What patterns have you noticed in your experience?
3. What special graces have you noticed in prayer, especially in relation to the sense of being in God’s loving and consoling presence?
To you O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Psalm 25:1, 2a.
We may often enter prayer with particular burdens and requests. In times when we don’t know what to pray or how to be in prayer, these words of the Psalmist are brief and beautiful, relinquishing the mystery of our lives to the wisdom and care of God. Offer them to God as you enter your time of rest and quietness in his presence.