The ENDS of Prayer

Recently a monk shared this with me. His is a markedly apophatic approach to spirituality, so this may not speak to everyone. But for the monk and I suppose anyone else who shares his approach to prayer, this little mnemonic is a tool to assist in remembering the contours of deep contemplation.

It involves remembering the “ENDS” of prayer, in this way:


Of course, entering into the emptiness, nothingness, darkness and silence of contemplation is not to suggest that all we are going to find there is a void. Rather, we are approaching the frontier of Mystery (with a capital “M”). We seek the One who is hidden in the darkness, whose voice rings out in the silence, whose presence becomes known in the emptiness and the nothingness. Or, perhaps a better way to see this, we dispose ourselves to be found by the One who seeks us.

Catholic Meditation and Contemplative Prayer: What's the Difference?
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
Emptiness and Non-Attachment
Is Mysticism Genetic?
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Al Jordan

    I like the ENDS mnemonic. I have a similar acronym that I use which seems to work for me to take me to the place of centered awareness and openness to God: Letting go, Acceptance, Stillness, Presence. Thanks for letting me share.

  • Ali

    And by approaching Mystery through the ENDS of prayer… we make a MENDS.

  • Madeline

    I like this. This mneumonic will be a great asset to me on my current spiritual journey. One strong determinator in this was the pithiness in explanation and ease of integration into my own practices. Thanks for sharing,

  • trev

    Or, as I might interpret it, the letting go of ego that we might experience Oneness.


  • Jan

    Thank you. I needed this today.

  • WitchDoctorJoe

    Agreed, I also love this. Great post.

  • noel

    lets hear it for that monk
    and for carl thanks for sharing
    god bless us everyone

  • buttersisonlymyname

    What do you think of this video? It’s somewhat relevant to your post:

  • Jeff

    I’ve always been the the “light and life” John 8:12 type of Christian expecting the Three Persons and experiencing the Three Persons as being knowable and accessible and hearable in the here and now. So this type of Christian spirituality has been always opague to me, which is perhaps why I like Saint Patrick’s approach which seems to me to be an example of “light and life” and involves the perceived and felt and heard presence of God. But I see the scriptural antecedents for the approach spoken of in this post in ” ENDS”. I wonder how our native temperaments play into how God manifests to us . But Paul was blinded by the light of Jesus and cast into darkness for three days. Perhaps this verse unites these two poles of Chrisitian spirituality – For God who said “Let light shine out of darkness” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6