Concerning Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Xenophobia

Contemplative spirituality is a spirituality in which, in the words of Richard Rohr, "everything belongs." It's a spirituality of inclusion, rather than exclusion. It seeks to build bridges rather than walls. To me, this is part of the towering beauty of contemplation. But we live in a world where not everyone sees things the same way, and contemplation, like anything else, has its critics. Generally speaking, my experience shows that the critics of Christian contemplation reject it for two … [Read more...]

Sometimes When I Sit in Silence…

Contemplative prayer — the prayer of sitting in silence, waiting in faith and trust on God — needs to be a daily practice. There are a number of reasons for this, but today I'd like to look at something I experience in my own prayer. I have to eat a little bit of humble pie to write this, because I'm admitting how poor I am at praying. But the truth is the truth. I need to pray in silence every day because, well, most days my silent prayer is not all that silent. Futhermore (and this is actually … [Read more...]

Deep Listening

The other day when several folks gathered at a church in Atlanta to participate in the Shalem Institute's 40th Anniversary "Circle the World in Prayer" vigil, one participant talked about a wonderful teaching she once received from Jerry May, who was a senior fellow at Shalem and the author of such classic books as Will & Spirit and Addiction & Grace. My friend shared an idea that May spoke of, called "deep listening." As we enter into silence, we consciously choose to let go of the … [Read more...]

Sharing in the Passion of Christ (Why Contemplation is Revolutionary, Part Eight)

This is part of a series on “Why Contemplation is Revolutionary.” If you want to start at the beginning, follow this link: The Archbishop and the Community Theologian.When we struggle with contemplative practice — facing our own inner chaos, turmoil, and darkness — we participate in the passion of Christ, which is a deeply revolutionary matter.Here's what Kenneth Leech has to say: The contemplative shares in the passion of Christ which is both an identification with the pain of the world … [Read more...]

Chaos, Crisis, and the Pursuit of the Vision of God (Why Contemplation is Revolutionary, Part Seven)

This is part of a series on "Why Contemplation is Revolutionary." If you want to start at the beginning, follow this link: The Archbishop and the Community Theologian.The other day, I wrote this about contemplation: It’s really just practice in a new way of seeing. ”Simply seeing things in a new light — this is what contemplation is,” remarked Brian D. McLaren in his book A Generous Orthodoxy. He’s right. Then there’s Richard Rohr, who describes contemplation as “learning to see as the mysti … [Read more...]

Exploring the “Inner Wasteland” (Why Contemplation is Revolutionary, Part Six)

This is part of a series on "Why Contemplation is Revolutionary." If you want to start at the beginning, follow this link: The Archbishop and the Community Theologian.Yesterday we looked at a quote about contemplation from Anglican theologian Kenneth Leech. Following his assertion that "contemplation has a context," we looked at how the many social, political, and environmental concerns of our time form the milieu in which a life of silent prayer must occur. Unlike some critics of … [Read more...]

Why Contemplation is Revolutionary (Part One)

In yesterday's post (The Archbishop and the Community Theologian) I quoted two renowned living contemplatives — emeritus Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and author/community theologian Kenneth Leech — both speaking of the communal and social implications of contemplative prayer.Naysayers, stand aside. Contemplative prayer is not about navel-gazing or self-absorbed "spiritual experiences." Indeed, anyone who explores contemplation only out of a desire for mystical experience or per … [Read more...]