This section is concerned with the accusation that Contemplative Prayer is about emptying the mind, and therefore not biblical.
We explore what the Bible says about this form of Christian discipline.
The Use of Scripture in Contemplative Prayer
How do you read the Bible?
Some people like to start with active meditation on a Bible passage - What is the scripture saying? What is its context? How does it encourage me? This is a valid and good approach to reading the Bible, but it is not essential when we prepare ourselves for Contemplation.Here we are going to use the Scriptures in a different way, to help us focus in and approach contemplative prayer.
This approach was very much advocated by the French contemplative Jeanne Gouyon, whose writings influenced people like John Wesley and James Hudson Taylor.
In essence, it is to read the passage and allow it to permeate your being. When you have begun to sense the presence of God, the scripture has done its work, and it is then that you close your eyes and hold onto the awareness of the presence of God.
The Bible teaches that we are made in the image of God and therefore something of God dwells in each one of us. Also those of us who have made a specific Christian commitment believe that the Spirit of Christ lives within us. As we close our eyes and focus inwardly, we become aware of the presence of God who lives within us. Teresa of Avilla went as far as to imagine the person of Jesus dwelling inside us. Many people have found this experience intensely invigorating. Some groups of Christians talk about 'soaking in the Holy Spirit', which is another way of understanding this experience.
It is good to invite the Holy Spirit to be with us as we move into contemplation: the Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus as a means of empowerment.
Madame Gouyon talked about 'Beholding the Lord' and 'gazing upon Him' and enjoying Him in the way that Lovers do.
The biggest problem for us wanting to focus on God, is the mind. It is often restless and active when we want to be still. She suggests making use of the scripture to still the mind. The steps are quite simple:-
- Choose a portion of scripture.
- Use the breathing relaxation method suggested in the section 'How to Get Started' .
- Remind yourself that God is with you.
- Read the scripture remembering His presence.
Once you have sensed the Lord’s presence the content of what you have read is no longer important. It has served the purpose of quieting the mind and bringing you into the presence of God.
Try this with a portion of Scripture. The Psalms provide many passages that you might find helpful. Here is one suggestion.
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
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