I define contemplative spirituality as slowing down to be with Jesus. It has made a radical difference in my life and in the lives of those to whom I have taught these principles. Contemplative spirituality does not require removing oneself from the hustle and bustle of daily commitments. Rather, it forms the basis from which you can approach all of life in union with Christ.
I encourage you to begin by choosing one or two of what I consider to be the top five practices that enable us to be more intentional about slowing down for loving union. They include:
Silence. In silence we are still before the Lord in wordless prayer. I seek to be silent in God’s presence for twenty minutes a day. When I do, I am calmer and less anxious when I am active. If twenty minutes seems too much, consider starting with two to five minutes and work your way up from there.
Scripture Meditation. We slowly and prayerfully spend time in small portions of Scripture, seeking to hear God’s voice and to know God’s thoughts and heart. In my own practice, I meditate each day on a passage from one of the Gospels so I might know God through Jesus. I also regularly carry with me a verse or two that I am meditating on during the week outside of my time alone with God.
The Daily Office. This is an ancient practice of using prayer to mark the times of the day, for example, morning prayer and evening prayer. The purpose of the daily office is to create a rhythm that enables us to stop our activity at set times during the day in order to be present with God. Stopping three to four times a day for brief times of prayer creates a meaningful rhythm for my days.
The Prayer of Examen. This is a tool that helps us to reflect on the day in order to attend to the movements of God’s Spirit within us, identify God’s presence, and discern God’s will. In its simplest form, it includes five steps:
•Be grateful for God’s blessings.
•Review the day with openness and gratitude, looking for times when God has been present and times you may have ignored him.
•Pay attention to your emotions in order to listen to God.
•Express sorrow for sin and ask for God’s forgiving love.
•Pray for the grace to be more available to God who loves you.
I recommend practicing the Examen once or twice a day until it becomes something you do almost unconsciously throughout the day. It serves as the cornerstone for my discernment of God’s will every day in small matters and large matters and I believe it can do the same for you.
Sabbath-Keeping. Sabbath is a 24 hour period in which we cease all work in order to rest and delight in God’s gifts. On the Sabbath we embrace our limits. We let go of the illusion that we are indispensable to the running of the world.
Remember that the point and purpose of every spiritual practice is to cultivate a life of loving union with Jesus. As you begin to follow these practices, surround yourself with grace.