A Brief Introduction to Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer has been part of the Christian tradition since earliest times. In the medieval period it became mostly associated with monasticism, but in the 20th century it was reclaimed as a normal part of many people's spiritual journey.

The terms contemplation and meditation are often used interchangeably. But they are different ways of being open to God.

Imagine being shown a picture:
If you meditate on the picture you actively engage your mind, imagination, and perception. What is the subject? How was it painted? How does it affect you? What might the artist have intended?

If you contemplate the picture you just sit and gaze at it, allowing it to 'speak' to you however it may.

So in contemplation we just 'are' before God with the four "S's:

Stillness, Silence, Simplicity, Surrender

Stillness enables us to give all our attention to God. It is most important when a group contemplates, as movement or noise from one participant can distract others from focusing on God.

Silence allows for the 'still, small voice' of God to be heard, and helps to focus our attention on God - not easy in a society where noise is used as an escape.

Simplicity does not mean it is easy, but that it needs minimal external input.

Surrender. Much of our Christian life - when, where and how we pray, worship, study - is decided by us. In contemplation we give all the initiative to God, letting God be in control, not us.

Sharing prayerful silence with a like-minded group can be both encouraging and strengthening. The whole group can benefit when different people lead in and out of the silence, bringing their own insights and ideas. There can develop an intensity and depth to the silence that is not describable, but can only be experienced and shared.

For more information about The Julian Meetings visit www.julianmeetings.org.

*Julian Meetings are held monthly in Furrough Cross on a Wednesday at 11:30. The dates for each month are to be announced in the church diary. All are welcome.