The day my son Will turned 15, my loving boy transformed into a snarky teenager. He was very quiet to begin with, but at that point in time, his vocabulary shrunk to about three syllables, “good,” “hey” and “k.” I struggled for two years trying to figure out ways to improve our relationship, yet the more I talked, the more he pulled away. I tried to control and manipulate the relationship so that it pleased me and made me happy, but it wasn’t working. The harder I strived, the more frustrated I became. Finally, I decided to join in on the things he enjoyed doing, but I wasn’t adept enough at Play Station 3, so that left watching TV as the one thing we had in common. Anything that had “pawn” in the title was quickly eliminated from my point of view, and anything on Oprah’s network was eliminated from Will’s point of view, but we were able to find a couple of shows that were mutually agreeable, Royal’s games, Chopped, The Voice, and the Bachelor. For over a year we sat in the family room together and watched these shows, rarely exchanging words, but we found that we enjoyed our time together. There was no more pressure or expectation, simply sitting together in each other’s presence was enough. Our relationship became relaxed and comfortable.
Sometimes our relationship with God can be like this. We talk to God, but get little communication back. We get frustrated in our relationship with God and the harder we try to pray the more discouraged we get, until sometimes we give up praying altogether. If this sounds familiar to you, I invite you to try contemplative prayer. Jesus says, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me,” John 15:4. That’s what contemplative prayer means, abiding, resting, remaining or relaxing in God’s presence. Contemplative prayer might look different for each of us, it can be simply sitting quietly for 20 minutes, taking a walk in nature, baking bread, gardening, knitting, or anything else that helps you still your mind. The key is the intentionality of “being” with God in these times instead of forcing a relationship.
Brennan Manning, in “Abba’s Child” says, “Contemplative prayer is above all else looking at the person of Jesus. The prayer of simple awareness means we don’t have to get anywhere because we are already there…Living in the awareness of the risen Jesus is not a trivial pursuit for the bored and lonely or a defense mechanism enabling us to cope the stress and sorrow of life. It is the key that unlocks the door to grasping the meaning of existence. All day and every day we are being reshaped into the image of Christ.”
My experience with contemplative prayer has been a blessing that has deepened my relationship with God and then extended into my relationship with others. If you are interested in learning more, join me in a six week Lenten Prayer Study on Resurrection Care Nights this spring beginning March 6th. Click here to learn more and sign up for this class.
–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer