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Giving God your loving attention

How to go about rediscovering contemplative prayer. By Katherine Daniels


Contemplation


You do not have to be a prophet to observe that our country at the cusp of new and testing times. We need to rediscover the contemplative dimension, so as to become part of the solution, and not be thrown off course by every anxiety or headwind. I believe God wants to raise up intercessors who are willing to stand in the breach, like Moses, and draw down His mercy for others (Ex 17:11; Ps. 106:23). All our projects, all our pastoral care and evangelisation will lack fruitfulness unless we are willing to live and pray and serve from the still, quiet waters buried deep within the soul: that place where you can ‘be still and know that I am God’ (Ps. 46:10).


What is Contemplative Prayer?

To pray contemplatively is not to learn a technique, but to enter more deeply into a relationship. ‘The ultimate prayer is a state of silent attention and adoration’ (Robin Daniels). We are content simply to gaze upon Him who is always looking upon us with love.  Teresa of Avila (a Carmelite nun writing in the 16th century) wrote to her sisters ‘I am just asking you to look at Him’. 

Contemplation can be likened to a child waiting at the window for her Father to come home; or a guard standing vigil, awaiting the Master’s return. The sentry keeps watch at the door of the heart, alert to the battalion of thoughts, desires and anxieties that wage an assault on the inner peace which is the bedrock of true prayer. What is the oil that the wise virgins have carefully kept topped up as they await the Bridegroom’s coming (Mt. 25:1-13)? The oil is prayer.

 

Recollection: Praying without ceasing

‘Recollection’ (which is the ancient Christian variant of mindfulness) means constantly remembering God, turning your mind, heart and faculties to Him, ‘experiencing His continuous presence’, and ‘sensing Him in the heart’s centre’ (Robin Daniels, The Virgin Eye). A habit of offering up all your sufferings to God, of thanking Him for gifts and graces, large or small, of humbling yourself, of making short arrow prayers of surrender, thanks, trust – throughout the day and night – is a way of living out Paul’s injunction to ‘pray without ceasing’.

The Virgin Eye
 

Ways into Contemplative Prayer

We cannot pray at all times, unless we make a discipline of praying at specific times. The approach will vary according to the personality and temperament. Pray as you can. Some people find imaginative meditation on the Gospel scenes helpful. Others prefer a prayer of just ‘being with God’. A friend of mine, when asked how she prayed said, ‘I just love Him’.
 

Distractions

Anyone who seriously sets about giving God their loving attention soon finds that the mind wanders off and is preoccupied with myriad distractions (however important some of these may seem): mission plans, church development projects, thoughts of someone appealing, what we’ll have for tea, resentments and regrets, anxieties about health, self or wealth. 

For this reason many great teachers on prayer recommend that we take a word or phrase onto which to harness our longing for God. It might be a phrase from the psalms, or the name Jesus, or the words ‘Abba, Father’, ‘Jesus I trust in you’, or the Jesus Prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’. Repeat this prayer from the heart with pauses of integrating silence. When the mind wanders do not judge yourself or get tense, but gently return to saying your word or phrase.


Opening doors of God’s mercy for others

By doing this we are not simply praying for ourselves, we are drawing all those in our mind and heart towards God. In praying ‘have mercy on me a sinner’, we pray on behalf of all those in our land who are not aware there is any need for repentance. Prayer breaks through the barriers we have created between ourselves and God. Prayer opens doors of mercy for others. This is what our nation needs, now, most urgently. Are you willing to take on the mantle?

 

Prayer photo: Unsplash


The ideas from this article are drawn from a new book by the late Robin Daniels, edited posthumously by his wife Katherine, titled The Virgin Eye: Towards a Contemplative View of Life (Instant Apostle, 21 October 2016).  RRP £9.99. 
 

Baptist Times, 10/01/2017
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