What is Contemplative Prayer and How to Do a Contemplative Prayer Practice

Contemplative Prayer as a Feather

Contemplative prayer is the ultimate meditation. This practice literally involves clearing the mind of all thoughts to rest in God’s presence. The word practice is used with meditation and with spiritual disciplines because they take practice! Contemplative practices are not something that you just do with ease. It can be very difficult to clear the mind from clutter.

A Sacred Word

Contemplative prayer uses what is called the sacred word. The idea is that when thoughts start to come into your mind that you focus on the sacred word to bring you back to just resting in God. The word is not spoken. The word is in your mind. Examples of words are: Jesus, grace, peace, stillness, mercy.

Gentleness is the key to using the sacred word. I’ve heard it described that when one’s thoughts drift, to say the sacred word to clear the thoughts. The act is as gentle as if the sacred word were a feather placed on top of a cloud.

The Mind as a River

The metaphor is that the mind is a river and thoughts are things that are floating by. In contemplative prayer the goal is to learn to just let the thoughts go, in other words, let them float by so as to clear the mind. Many times inspirational or creative thoughts will enter into the mind. These thoughts, even though they are God inspired are supposed to be ignored. (Note, if they are truly inspired, the thoughts or ideas will come back.)

The ultimate goal is to empty your worries and cares to be in God’s presence.  This does not involve listening to God.  It is to just be. Answers are to be sought outside of contemplative prayer.

For me, contemplative prayer is one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines; however, it can be one of the most rewarding. To receive the full benefits of contemplative prayer, it is recommended that you practice for 10-30 minutes each morning and in the afternoon.  (Page 2 has an example of a contemplative prayer practice and caution when doing contemplative prayer.)

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4 Responses to What is Contemplative Prayer and How to Do a Contemplative Prayer Practice

  • Hi Donna,
    Thank you for your comment. I guess the best example of what I mean by this emptying word is when I used to work for Clear Channel. On some days I would turn on my computer and I was greeted with a message that said I couldn’t send more emails or even have the computer function until I cleared out some files.
    Our minds are thinking all the time. So, what I mean by this is that we need to empty our thoughts of fear, doubt, and worry so that we can fill our minds with peace, love, and compassion. Jesus may have never said, “Clear your thoughts.” But he certainly said, “Fear not and don’t worry about tomorrow.”
    The Psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God.” By being still, we give God our full attention just to be in God’s presence. The point is to empty the thoughts that keep us from being filled with God’s peace and presence through being mindful of God’s Spirit within us.
    I appreciate the thoughts that you’ve shared.
    Peace to you,
    Jackie

  • As I was looking up scriptures on meditation NOWHERE in the bible did I find that we are to EVER clear our minds of thoughts. Instead the bible is very clear on it.

    Psalms 119:27 I will meditate on your wonderous works….(this involves a thought process)
    Psalms 119:15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways
    Psalms 143:5 I will meditate on all you have done
    Psalms 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord and will meditate upon it day and night

    These scriptures say just the opposite of what contemplative prayer teaches. The bible is telling us to fill our minds not with a “Sacred word” as in a chant or mantra in order to magically clear our minds, but rather fill our minds with His Word.
    In 2 Co. 10:5 its says to take every thought captive. This requires action, not Stillness as the contemplative prayer expresses. The ultimate goal in truly meditating, is to be filled with God’s ord. To have it before us, lead us and guide us. NOT TO empty your self, but rather fill yourself.

  • Hi Claudette,
    I didn’t know if you saw the second part of the post. The comment showed up on this page. Here you will find instructions on how to do contemplative prayer.

    Prayer, meditation, Bible study, are all spiritual practices that you need to do on your own. It’s like exercise, no one can do it for you. If you follow this outline, you will be doing contemplative prayer. With learning anything, at first is hard and then becomes easy. I hope that this helps. The benefits of having greater love, compassion, and peace are worth it.
    Peace to you,
    Jackie

  • I am really interested in learning contemplative prayer so please help accomplish this. Thank you.

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