Most of us learned how to prayer with words like: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” or “God is great, God is good. Now we thank God for our food.”
We usually progressed to memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and praying for things and for others, asking God to take care of them, (This is called Intercessory praying: interceding for something.).
Perhaps we noticed the beautiful Pastoral Prayers of the clergy, and the poetically crafted prayers in Worship like the “Prayer of St. Francis” or the 23rd Psalm.
I had learned all these types of praying early in life, but then I was completely stunned by a different kind of prayer, an unspoken and unprinted prayer.
It was the prayer lacking words, printed or otherwise that depended on me.
A “contemplative prayer” moves away from memorized lines and various grammatical forms to a deep and peaceful absence of all the thoughts that are usually whirling and careening around my head.
Contemplative prayer encourages deep quiet. Contemplative prayer encourages me to set aside all my thoughts and speculations and simply listen.
I discovered how to open myself to God’s profound silence which then drains away all the distractions buzzing in my head. It focuses only on God, not me.
Our normal way of praying is like going to the doctor, listening our symptoms, then leaving. Contemplative prayer is sticking around and then listening carefully to what the Doctor has to say in order to be guided and shaped by the Doctor’s wisdom.
Contemplative prayer, Silent prayer, is staying around after the clearing away of all the concerns you carry in order to listen intently for what God has to say.
It’s a “deep listening” time, …a “being” time to just sit still in God’s presence.
Some of us learn to sit in silence for up to 20 minutes at a time, putting aside thoughts until there is no thought but God, Jesus the Messiah, the Holy Spirit.To do this, one often needs a “focus word” like “Jesus”, “Grace”, “Hope” or “Creation”.
We use it whenever we recognize that we are getting distracted. Then we quietly bring that word to mind to help us re-focus on the presence of God.
Sometimes people find action in prayer helps: i.e. walking prayer, using a labyrinth or strolling around their neighborhood or a park nearby. Others have a repetitive activity like praying the Rosary beads or a mantra to pray into the silence of God’s presence.
is God’s first language;
is a poor translation”[1
Fr. Thomas Keating declares.
A deeply traditional prayer using silence is “Lectio Divina”, a “Holy Readying” of our scripture that lets it soak into our hearts.
In this form of silent prayer, we read a passage three times, with each reading going deeper into its very personal meaning and message God is giving us through it.
All these “quiet prayers” focusing on a silence that moves us from talking “at” God or talking “to” God, or even past a talking “with” God to finally “quietly being in God’s presence”, with a heightened listening and silent focus.
Give it a try! It gives us a much needed break from all the busy-ness and words often bombarding us.
Turn off the TV and smart phone screens, and then take time to sit quietly. Choose a focusing, holy word, and begin to shed all the thoughts and worries of your life.(Remember to use the holy word to call you back to your center when you find yourself drifting away.)
Do this as often as you can for at least few weeks. And quietly listen for God’s word, God’s heart, gently speaking to your heart in that silence.
When we recognize that Jesus the Christ really is always with us, through no doing of our own, we come to know deep in our heart that we are actually sitting on the “Porch of Heaven” right now!
In doing so, we are surrounded by the mystery of creation and that God has truly given us “Citizenship in Heaven.” (Phil 3:20) …Not only now, but for all of eternity.
“Be silent before the Lord God!
For the day of the Lord
is at hand;
the Lord has prepared
He has consecrated his guest.”
 - Thomas Keating, “Invitation to Love: the Way of Christian Contemplation” Continuum (June 1, 1994)