Contemplative practices for laypeople?
I PMed this to the OPer when I wasn't allowed to post to this forum, but now that I can, I'm posting my response here, just in case anyone else finds it useful:

I think your interest in contemplative prayer is obviously a good thing, but be careful that you don't go straight for the heavy stuff. We need to take baby steps in the spiritual life.

First of all, do you have familiarity with what is typically called "mental prayer" or "meditation"? Contemplation differs from these because contemplation is something that typically comes into play when one has already made significant advancements in the spiritual life. In contemplation, God calls you to prayer and speaks to you, when and where He wants to. It is a more passive form of prayer than vocal prayer or mental prayer.

But it's important to learn to walk first. Explore mental prayer if you haven't already. Employing a time-tested method would be wise. For example, you might employ the Ignatian method, which, in short, involves taking a few minutes to put yourself in the presence of God, making some bodily sign of submission to God (such as touching one's forehead to the ground), meditating on a specific theme or image, envisioning how you will apply the fruits of this meditation in your life, making resolution to change one's life accordingly, and finally thanking God for the wisdom He has shown you in prayer. The Spiritual Exercises can provide you with a more in-depth instruction.

You might also employ the ancient Benedictine method of lectio divina ("divine reading"). Put simply, this is a prayerful, meditative reading of the Scriptures. The key here is to read very slowly and deliberately, and taking breaks as long as necessary whenever you feel that God wants you to concentrate on a particular passage. I'm sorry that I can't recommend a particular commentary on lectio divina, but I know there are plenty out there.

Some books I recommend for further guidance would be St. Francis de Sales "Introduction to the Devout Life" (which is written for lay people), "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence, and, as others have recommended "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis.

When starting out with mental prayer, it's smart to start out small. Try 15 minutes to start. As you get the hang of it and become more comfortable with it, you may sense God calling you to stay with Him longer in prayer. Eventually, you may want to extend your meditations to 20-30 minutes. FYI, I've heard that traditional Discalced Carmelites make two hour-long meditations a day.

Hope this helps.

Messages In This Thread
Re: Contemplative practices for laypeople? - by rbjmartin - 07-25-2011, 06:06 PM

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)