From the director, Center for Prayer & Spirituality
The mission of the Center for Prayer & Spirituality is to offer opportunities to awaken interest in Christian contemplative practices while being open to learning from other traditions.
Just what exactly are Christian contemplative practices, you ask. The only way I know how to explain them is to say that they are something you follow — out of your experience of God rather than your knowledge of him — and to share with you how I came to them.
I was introduced to the practice of contemplative prayer — the quiet, with-no-words prayer of the heart — at a time in my life when I was searching for a God I knew through my faith was there, but whose presence was obscured.
A dear friend and spiritual director suggested I quit using the words I habitually drew on to pray to God and to become still and rest in a Silence in which God ultimately would speak to me and reveal Himself. So, I began to sit for the suggested 20 minutes each day. It felt like a long time but gradually I could increase that to twice a day. You can, too, when you feel ready and led to do so. And for as many minutes as you’re able.
Most of that time was spent trying to quiet the incessant chatter in my mind. My friend taught me to let the thoughts quietly pass on by without engaging in them. And, after awhile and a lot of practice — of just showing up — over the ensuing months, God slowly and gently began to open my heart to Him.
It has made all the difference.
I learned that my search for God is only my response to his search for me. Isn’t that amazing?! I learned that this Silence is a place where I am mercifully accepted and unconditionally loved. So sweet! I learned that when I experience pain in my soul, it is only God trying to teach me a truth about myself…about himself…to take me to a deeper place. I learned that this way of being with God is for everyone, people just like all of us! I learned that the only way to learn is by practicing and experiencing. There is no formula, although there are things that more fully prepare us and open us to God.
What “happens” in contemplative prayer is a common question. In contemplative prayer God asks an entire self-giving to God himself — so completely that the substance of our human nature is transformed into God’s likeness. You’ll find yourself becoming more and more like the One in Whom you are resting so peacefully. You’ll probably be unaware of anything happening because it is mostly hiddenly that it does. But you’ll find yourself being a little bit more loving, more giving, more aware. Evelyn Underhill says, “Each time this happens, it means that one more creature has achieved its destiny.”
This is the penultimate in contemplative prayer. And it comes after years and years of “just showing up” and being quiet and still.
The Center for Prayer & Spirituality offers an introduction to contemplative prayer and contemplative living with a few methods that have helped others; a small library of sacred books on prayer; a regular contemplative prayer experience through our Quiet Sunday Mornings, Quiet Garden Days and seasonal Quiet Days and services, and a contemplative eucharist at 12:10 p.m. each Friday. Consult the cathedral’s web site for more detailed information at jaxcathedral.org/about/Center for Prayer and Spirituality. Please let us know how we may help you discover a richer and deeper and more holy experience of our Risen Lord. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904.384.5885.