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...]

Emptiness and Non-Attachment

Last week I wrote about the difference between how Catholics understand meditation and contemplation, based on material found in the Catholic Catechism. A reader left the following comment on that post: We rest in God. But we do not empty our minds. We are always in communication with God. Prayer is focusing on God and we praise him for who He is, we intercede for others, and we put our requests to Him. We align our wills with His in prayer. Never do we make our minds a 'spiritual vacuum' for … [Read more...]

Nine Ways to Foster a Contemplative Church

If you are the pastor of a church or parish, this post is for you. If you are not the pastor but are a member of a congregation, consider sharing this post with your pastor, especially if he or she is interested in silent prayer.Karl Rahner, the renowned 20th century Jesuit theologian, once wrote "the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist." I interpret this to mean that Christians need more than just moral guidance and instruction in the proper way to think about God, … [Read more...]

What to Say to the Nay-Sayers: Talking About Contemplation With Its Critics

If you are active in a church or other faith community, and you are drawn to (or practicing) silent prayer, if you talk about it with others you will likely, sooner or later, hear somebody say something along these lines:"Isn't meditation Buddhist? Or Hindu? Christians don't need to do that sort of thing.""Sitting in silence? It's just a waste of time. We are called to be serving others, not avoiding them.""Contemplation and mysticism aren't in the Bible. Therefore, they aren't for … [Read more...]

Principles for Contemplative Spirituality (Part One)

A couple of years ago Rob Bell wrote a book with the title What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I haven't read the book, but I love the title. So I suppose this blog post could be called "What we talk about when we talk about contemplation."If that seems funny to you, I admit I'm being ironic. Why talk about something that takes us — or at least invites us — to a place beyond language, beyond words, beyond grammar? But as silent as contemplation is, the reality of being human is that we … [Read more...]

The Rule, the Discipline, and Spiritual Growth

I bet if I took a poll, almost everyone who reads my blog would agree with this statement: "I want to grow spiritually."Readers of spiritual blogs want to grow in their faith and practice the way that readers of marketing blogs want to expand their business, or the readers of investment blogs want to make more money. It's part of the nobility of being human: we see areas in our lives where we want improvement, and we try to gain more knowledge, more skill, more discipline in order to reach … [Read more...]

What To Do When Your Prayer Doesn’t Get ‘In The Zone’

A reader named Kevin wrote the following comment to me on Facebook, in response to my recent post Why Is "Mysticism" a Dirty Word. Thanks Carl, interesting points. I was wondering if I could pick your brain on something...when I meditate/contemplate on my breath (I have a semi regular habit) I only seem to get "in the zone" of a peaceful meditative state about 1 session in 10. The rest of the time not much happens. Is this normal? Am I expecting too much? I'm getting a bit … [Read more...]