Is it possible to “fail” at contemplative prayer?

Anyone who has ever trained with weights knows that form is important. If you lift heavy weights without proper form, you run the risk of a significant injury.The other day I was working with a trainer, and we were doing a fairly basic shoulder press, and he noted that my back was bowing. He mentioned it to me, and I immediately began to overcompensate. He pointed that out to me, and I said "I'm worried about my form.""Your form is going to fail," he remarked. In other words, as I … [Read more...]

Ten Books for Learning the Basics of Christian Contemplation

A reader of this blog sent me an email recently that said in part:I have to confess I have not yet read any of your books. But I love your writing and would like to learn more about Christian spirituality. Can you recommend several of your books, and perhaps suggest the order to read them?  Anything else you'd recommend (books, online, etc) would be great too. I'm glad this reader asked for other recommendations besides just my books — but this is not the first time I've been asked "in what … [Read more...]

Five Ideas that Shape Contemplative Prayer

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Chris Anderson's TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. If your work in any way involves public speaking, I heartily encourage you to give it a listen. Chris is a humble and charming enough speaker in his own right, but fortified with tips and tricks, the do's and don't's, from the best speakers to give talks at TED Conferences over the years, the book provides an excellent survey of what really makes a speech effective.And one … [Read more...]

Thoughts are to contemplative silence like a monstrance is to the Host

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplation like this: A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God's greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love. I emphasized "wordless prayer" because that is often what people struggle with the most. Critics of contemplation attack it because they see it as "emptying the mind" which they think makes it too similar to eastern meditation (which is an … [Read more...]

Instructions on Prayer from a Trappist Monk

"I'm speechless," remarked Brother Elias Marechal, OCSO, after a congregation of several hundred young evangelicals vigorously applauded his visit to their worship service last month. But then he quipped, "We don't talk in the monastery much."Grace Fellowship in Athens, GA (home of the University of Georgia) recently invited this deeply contemplative Trappist monk to come and speak to the congregation, comprised mostly of students. Grace's pastor, John Raymond, has for the past decade re … [Read more...]

Five Essential Dimensions of Christian Prayer

I talk a lot about silent prayer in this blog, which is understandable considering that my focus is on contemplative prayer, which the Catholic Catechism describes as "wordless prayer." As important as silence is to contemplative and mystical forms of prayer, it's only one of five essential dimensions of Christian prayer. In this post I look at all of these dimensions of prayer: what they are, why they matter, and how to cultivate all the essential ways of praying in your daily spiritual pra … [Read more...]

Seven Blessings of Silent Prayer

Silent prayer — contemplative prayer, what the Catholic Catechism calls "wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God's greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration" — is an important element of a mature Christian spirituality. The Bible instructs us to "be still and know... God" (Psalm 46:10), and even promises us that "silence is praise" (Psalm 65:1, translated literally).I thought it might be helpful to reflect on the many ways that contemplation brings blessing into our l … [Read more...]