Contemplative Prayer: The Path to Wisdom

I’ve been contemplating this simple quote from Richard Rohr:

“I think some experience of God is necessary for mental and emotional health. You basically don’t belong in the universe until you are connected to the center and the whole, and a word for that is “God.” When you live in the false self you are “eccentric,” or off-center. You’re trying to make something the Center that is not the center—yourself or anything else. It will never work. Thus the only real sin is idolatry—making something God that is not God!

I would call the false self a relative identity. I would call the true self your absolute identity. The relative identity is not of itself bad or wrong. It’s simply not the true self! It cannot get you where you finally need and want to go.” – The Gospel Call to Compassionate Action” CAC.

I’m an evangelical Christian, which puts me in somewhat strange territory here on the Progressive Portal at Patheos. I’m not a true progressive inasmuch as that word is synonymous with American liberal politics (small “l” as in the continuum between liberal on the left and conservative on the right). My theological mentors painstakingly tried to root out disenfranchise me from my Liberal political theory (liberal with a big “L”), calling it the enlightenment project which seeks to deny that humans follow any narrative other than the freedom of the individual to choose what kind of life they wish to lead. I don’t think we can choose our own story quite so easily. We are born in the middle of a story that is already in progress. Understanding the true nature of that story (not choosing your own story), is where true wisdom can be found.

The sin of Liberalism (big “L”), and thus of both conservative/liberal politics is the same as all sin: idol making (a form of usurpation). Liberal democracies make an idol of the persons right to choose their own story so long as they don’t interfere with anybody else’s right to choose their own story. The Christian story tells us that we belong to one another, and to a story that we joined already in progress. The story is about the Redemption of all things through Jesus Christ. Our identity is not something we can achieve as we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, it is constantly received from God and from the people of God. Rohr tells us that any identity we can achieve for ourselves is a false identity and cannot lead us to emotional health, which is why so many people who are overly committed to one side or another in American politics seem so emotionally unhealthy.

The political left and political right in our country both suffer from the same malady Rohr describes. They both seek to make something more ultimate than God. They give allegiance to the wrong narrative and make it more important than the story of God.

My prayer is that we will all have the courage to seek the contemplative life.

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

    “Contemplative prayer is the naked and blind intuitive perception of God’s being as our own being and our own source, without words. . . . He is your being and in Him, you are what you are, not only because He is the cause and being of all that exists, but because He is your cause and the deep center of your being. Therefore, in this contemplative work think of your self and of Him in the same way: that is, with the simple awareness that He is as He is, and that you are as you are. In this way your thought will not be fragmented or scattered, but unified in Him who is all. Yet keep in mind this distinction between yourself and Him: he is your being but you are not His. It is true that everthing exists in Him as in its source and ground of being, and that He exists in all things, as their cause and their being. Yet a radical distinction remains: He alone is His own cause and His own being. For as nothing can exist without Him, so He cannot exist without Himself. He is His own being and the being of everything else. Of Him alone may this be said; and thus He is distinct from every created thing. And thus, also; He is one in all things and all things are one in Him. For I repeat: all things exist in Him; He is the being of all.” ~ THE BOOK OF PRIVY COUNSEL

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/37888469/The-Book-of-Privy-Counseling


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