I have been asked a few times to say a little bit about my practice of contemplative prayer. These are just a few private notes or observations on what I have tried to talk about.
Let me say I am no expert in the area, if such a thing exists.
It’s nearly forty years ago that my then novice master, Brother Quentin Harney, convinced me of the value of contemplation. In his convincing me of this his main tool was his daily example.
Forty years on, I am still a novice in many areas and most especially in the area of contemplative prayer. Having said that I am also more convinced than ever of its value.
Let us start with the most basic and that is the desire that I have to pray. This desire is deep in my heart and I believe the desire itself is prayer, or at least is the beginning of prayer. I believe this desire to pray is the Spirit within me turning me towards God.
The next step, albeit a very obvious one, is the absolute importance of showing up. This is as basic as time and place.
I often find the challenge is staying awake enough and for long enough to listen.
At this stage in my life I believe that if I fall asleep at prayer, especially if it’s the norm, then this time should be made up. In other words if the intention is an hour’s prayer and I fall asleep for twenty minutes in the middle of it, then this time should be added on.
I begin by telling Jesus as it is, deep in my heart. I include my darkest bit, and also my greatest hope. I try not to forget to thank him and also to tell him how much I love him.
As soon as possible though I want to get beyond the words, to the actual gazing or staring.
Some days when I come to prayer I realise the devil has me by the toe. It is important to recognise that this is the case and equally important to name how he has a hold of me. To name it. I try this:
What is his modus operandi?
How does he paralyze you, entrap, enslave and render you powerless?
Does he nag and poke at your weakness, your past and maybe present sin?
Name the sin.
In what way in this sin do you choose something or someone over Jesus?
Can you face this honestly?
It is good to remind ourselves whatever else the Evil Spirit wants us to be doing, the last thing he wants us at is giving quality time to prayer.
It is important to remind ourselves that our prayer is in the fidelity, and that fidelity is in our prayer.
Sometimes it is hard to do much more than show up.
This ‘wasting’ time with Jesus is our gift to him. Sometimes it is the case that we have little else to offer him except to sit there with him.
Oftentimes for me that’s about it. My little insignificant presence meeting, or dovetailing into his magnificent presence. This is an uneasy unity but no less profound.