In the quiet, still silence, I await my God.
There seems to be some misgivings about the idea of “contemplative prayer” (also referred to as Christian Meditation) and in some of the descriptions I've read, I would agree that it can seem iffy.
Contemplation, or sometimes known as Lectio Divina, is in its most basic form, the idea and practice of waiting on the Lord. Often in silence or while you ponder on scripture or when you seek an answer or just to rest in his presence and have your strength renewed.
There are some people who think that this means “emptying your mind” and doing something akin to occultism, and opening yourself up to demons and deception. While I'm sure some websites or institutions may teach this, I would say that is not the true essence of this ancient practice.
I would never defend, nor advocate, any practice of emptying your mind, as this would be contrary to Scripture. What the bible repeatedly states is that we should be filling our minds with the things of God and scripture; focussing purely on God!
So let's take a look at the three basic tenets of this type of praying: silence, waiting, and meditating.
Being silent before the Lord is not an unbiblical position. Nor is finding some quiet alone time with yourself and God. In fact, this is what Jesus instructed (and did: Luke 5:16)!
But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
let the peoples renew their strength;
let them approach, then let them speak;
let us together draw near for judgment.
Let us not forget that the voice of God is not necessarily loud and dramatic, but a small, still voice. How can we hear if we are not still ourselves?
1 Kings 19:12
After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.
Be still, and know that I am God!
Waiting on the Lord
Time and time again, the scriptures encourage and implore us to wait patiently on the Lord. Even God himself is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9), so why should we not be for him? It is a fruit of the Spirit, after all (Gal 5:22-24).
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
...but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for one to bear
the yoke in youth
Waiting on God should be our desire!
In the path of your judgments,
O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and your renown
are the soul’s desire.
Isaiah even states that God works for those who wait for him!
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
Sometimes all we can do is come before the Lord in patience with our prayers, even when we have no words, trusting in the Spirit to intercede for us.
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Our fast-paced, instant, “want it now” society has all but lost the art of sitting quietly and having patience. Even more so in prayer. We seem to think that God moves as fast as we expect or think, but it isn't so. God has always moved at his own pace, in his own time.
We just need to learn to wait. Like Habakkuk, we must wait in a determined manner when seeking God. Why ask of God, and then walk away and forget about it? We should stayed focused lest we doubt or get distracted by the busyness of life around us.
mI will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
But ask in faith, never doubting ... for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
In all of this, we draw nearer to the Lord. And in doing so, he draws closer to us!
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Some people don't like the word “meditate” as it conjures up strange Eastern practices with monks sitting cross-legged saying “ommm..” repeatedly.
But that's only one type, and is so far removed from Christian meditation it shouldn't even be compared.
Scriptures often speak of meditation, but not in the “emptying” sense, but rather, meditating on the Lord and his Word. The Psalmist says this often, and usually says only good and delight/joy will come of it.
...but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
Not only meditating on God's Law and commands, but also just about him.
...I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
Also in times of distress and need, meditating on God, waiting on his Spirit of comfort for answers and/or peace.
I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.
I commune with my heart in the night;
I meditate and search my spirit [for answers]
Meditating on the things God has done in your life is also something we can do, or even just thinking about his great deeds which are recorded in the bible.
I will meditate on all your work,and muse on your mighty deeds.
I remember the days of old,
I think about all your deeds,
I meditate on the works of your hands.
Not only that, we can and should meditate on God's commands so that we may better understand them, and also commit them to memory in order to better live by his ways.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
All of this is prayer!
In everything here, it is nothing but prayer to God. Prayer in its many forms for its many reasons.
To wait. To seek. To draw closer. To understand. To praise.
This is how we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) and can discover the "depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10) by His Spirit.
This is how we discern and gain wisdom by the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), how we receive God's perfect peace and stop worrying and learn to trust HIM.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
Think about these things!
A final thought to end on, as this verse sums everything up nicely, and is the basic essence of a lifestyle of contemplative prayer:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Just something to meditate on.