Acquiring the Art of Contemplation

by  Judith Lawrence

Contemplation has been spoken of as art. The person who prays as a contemplative does not speak in words so much as in intuition; she is a soul who is like an artist or a poet, a soul who yearns to be with God in wonder and silence.

In his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 3:16–19 (New Living Translation), St. Paul says:

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

These words from St. Paul seem to be a complete description of contemplative prayer:

  • empowered by the Holy Spirit;
  • that Christ will make his home in our hearts;
  • that our roots will grow down into God’s love;
  • that we understand how wide, long, high, and deep God’s love is;
  • that we may experience the love of Christ;
  • that we may be complete with the full life and power that comes from God.

In contemplative prayer this is what we long for—to learn this love of God, to receive this love from God, and return it to God again. It takes a continual discipline, a practice, and a yearning to be with God. There is a desire to just be still in God’s presence—to rest in the Lord.

The self must pass through a process of discipline in the course of acquiring the art of contemplation.

“All [mystics],” says Evelyn Underhill, in her book, Mysticism, “describe a connected experience, the progressive concentration of the entire self under the spur of love.” P. 207

© Judith Lawrence