The Prayer of Contemplation

The Prayer Tree of God’s Love  

Like most brides, I was madly in love with the idea of marriage, and all the excitement and promises of sharing my life with the man I loved.  Falling in love and planning this special day is still the most treasured memory of my life.  But only after I was married for awhile did I realise that the big day was only the beginning of a journey of trust and faith in a relationship that had to endure the ups and downs of life.
Those first two years of marriage represented a steep learning curve for me. I had to learn how to discipline my tongue, when to speak and when to remain silent.  I discovered ways to be present to my husband without words and to express my love through a caring heart.  A deep and lasting bond has developed between us.
I learnt how to love myself and my husband not through my own human instinctive ways of loving but through God’s love and his gift of contemplative prayer.  When I married my husband, I was a damaged soul still carrying lots of emotional baggage from my previous relationships.  I wanted to believe in faith that God’s promises were real for me and that I was special and loveable.

the human perspectiveI asked God to teach me how to pray. God never seemed to answer my prayers and so I assumed I was praying the wrong way.  I realise now that asking God how to pray was the most important question I had ever asked.  How to love God?  How to love myself?  How to love others?  These are important questions, but I could only address them after learning how to pray.
God did answer my prayer.  He sent someone into my life, a priest who introduced me to the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  The priest prayed for me to receive a new outpouring of God’s love.  I experienced a new awakening within me and a presence of God’s love.  I began to see the events of my life in a new way.  I became convicted in faith that God really did exist.

After a few weeks, the glow began to diminish within, and my encounter with God’s spirit seemed to have run its course.  My friends told me to keep praising God and to listen to praise and worship songs and the inner glow would return.
The music and praise helped me, but I began to question why I needed to keep praising God to remain on a spiritual high in order to feel God’s presence in my life.
Then I found a book written by St. Teresa of Avila about prayer in which the saint said, “contemplative prayer is like two close friend sharing their love with one another; it means taking time to be frequently alone with him who we know loves us. It is the lived experience of Christ’s promise:  ‘He who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love and manifest myself to him.’

This is what I was searching for.  The next question for me was, how do I pray for God’s love (which is the power of his Holy Spirit) to be always present in my life?  I began to read books about contemplative prayer, and although I found them enlightening they were too academic for me.  I had a past history of sinful choices and being in abusive relationships.  I felt I couldn’t aspire to be worthy to sit in God’s presence and communicate with God as a friend.

I even went away to a monastery for a silent 40 day retreat in the hope I would learn how to pray.  As a mother, wife and part time employee, it seemed that contemplative prayer was a great idea, but in reality, this way of praying could not be sustained in my everyday life.  I did persevere though as the Holy Spirit had released within me a new life of grace and the sit/wait/listen prayer exercises evolved from my personal experience of discovering that contemplation is for everyone.
God’s Word became the prayer tree of love.  
The sit/wait/listen prayer exercises became the prayer foundation of Mary of the Angelus Healing Ministry.  Today, Angelus members teach people how to rest in God’s heart so they can receive his wisdom and love.  To grow in knowledge and understanding about the ways of God and of man that He created with a spirit, soul and body (Isaiah 11:2)

The Word of God became flesh through Mary and she pondered all these words in her heart. (Luke 2:51) She becomes for us the role model for prayer  
 


prayer-treesSit / Wait  /Listen Prayer Card

The Contemplative Prayer Tree for God’s Love

The roots of this tree are watered by the living waters of grace
Flowing from the Heart of God.

1. To Sit :  To choose a sacred place and a quiet time to relax and be present to form a relationship with Jesus.

2. To Wait:  Is to still the mind from wandering (focussing on a mental image of Jesus helps) quieten the interior voices (by repeatedly praying the name Jesus to your mind image of Jesus or Come Holy Spirit) to do this for five to ten minutes daily.  

3. To Listen: Is to engage the mind to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit to guide you how to pray for the healing of your life’s hurts.

4. Growing in the prayer gifts of the Holy Spirit will help us to communicate with God.These spiritual gifts are enriched through contemplative prayer.  

Comment
These simple prayer steps prepare our hearts to receive God’s love.  As we sit in the silence of love through the first two steps our hearts are united with God’s heart for his love to be poured into ours. (Referred to as passive contemplation)
The third step involves God’s spiritual gifts empowering us to communicate with Jesus and to bring his light into the darkness or the wounds of our life. ( referred to as active contemplation )  
The fourth step encourages us to grow in an awareness and understanding about God’s spiritual gifts for healing.
Pictorial Prayer Steps for Contemplative Prayer

Prayer Comment:
There are many ways to say I love you and there are many ways to pray.  Our role in prayer is to be a receiver.  God is streaming his love 24/7 for us.  He waits for us to interact with him so He can communicate his love and heal our wounded lives.  Our part in prayer is to make the connection can learn how to be an effective receiver.

Vocal Prayer:
Is the most popular and accessible. Jesus taught us vocal prayer with the Our Father.  Then there is spontaneous prayer from the heart, liturgical prayer, Divine Office, plus catholic devotional prayers. e.g. Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Litanies, Novenas and Chaplets.  These forms of prayers are not about words but about the fervour of the soul and can flow into contemplative prayer.

Meditative prayer:
Engages our thoughts, imagination, emotion and desires.  It is where the mind seeks to understand why and how about the Christian life through books, sacred scripture, icons liturgical texts, writings of the saints and spiritual writers.

Contemplative Prayer:
Is a gift and grace of the Holy Spirit that enables us to gaze on Jesus and Him on us.  In the silence of His love our hearts begin to be purified and we begin to see and understand everything in the light of his truth and compassion.  In the Angelus way of contemplation we combine passive and active forms of contemplation  


The passive movement:
This is one of recollecting our thoughts to be still and centring our mind upon an image of Jesus and praying a repetitive heart word (Jesus) or a phrase taken from scripture.  In the silence of the mind our heart word   (mantra) becomes a living prayer linking our heart into the heart of God with a love transfusion taking place.  This act of God’s love delivers us from the toxic effects of our sins that keep us in captivity to un-forgiveness, and to the hurts of our life experiences.  
It’s a prayer of Be -ing not of doing and brings us the living waters of grace for us to grow in the spiritual gifts we received at Baptism.  These supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit enlighten, empower and guide us how to pray for healing and for hearts to be converted.
Despite our inability to be still which will be most of the time God’s transfusion of love will continue to flow.  The activities and places we go in our daily lives can affect our ability to be still and there are prayer exercises available to help us do this.   

Active Contemplation

This is where we engage the intellect and invoke the supernatural gifts of the spirit. Enlightened by spiritual insights, words of knowledge about God’s ways or the understanding of our own human frailties we become aware of the effects of sin and how they may be afflicting us.  These spiritual gifts guide us how to pray for the healing of our inner self and for those heavily burdened or spiritually oppressed.
Active contemplation always follows passive contemplation.  To sit and to wait is passive contemplation and to listen is active contemplation.  This is where you engage the mind to listen, perceive and respond to the insights, promptings or images now being received.  Active contemplation guides us how to appropriate scripture for it to become a living power to set us free and for healing.  We are enlightened about the many blessings for the conversion of hearts through Catholic devotional prayers.

Growing in the prayer gifts of the Holy Spirit are taught in Angelus formation and through the purchase of CD.  Prayer Exercises and Books
The spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple. (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19)  In them he prays and bears witness to their adopted sonship.(Gal 4:6; Romans 8:15-16, 26) guiding the church in the way of truth (John l6:13) and unifying her in communion and in the works of ministry he bestows upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts and in this way directs her; and he adorns her with his fruits (Ephesians 4:11-12; I Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22.) by the power of the gospel he permits the Church to keep the freshness of the spirit. Constantly he renews her and leads her to perfect union with her spouse.   For the spirit and the bride both say to Jesus the Lord "Come” (Rev 22:17)                               Paragraph 4 Vatican Council Document on the Church

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