Spiritual Training Cycle: Unity (wk. 7/13)
How many of you have ever heard of the sickness wellness fitness continuum? The concept was first introduced to me at a seminar lecture in 2013. Essentially, this continuum can be used to chart and track physical health. By using measurements such as blood pressure, body fat, cholesterol, muscle mass, etc., a person’s health can be plotted on the continuum and followed over time. Not surprisingly, the fitter a person becomes, the further away they move from developing chronic disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. What most intrigued me though was the revelation that fitness is both a journey and a destination. People pursue fitness, move away from sickness, but they can continually pursue new levels of fitness. For me, the concept was thought-provoking.
Thought-provoking. Two simple words that when combined mean stimulating careful consideration or attention. Movie makers, writers, professors, even Cliff Clavin from the sit-com Cheers all want to be thought-provoking. They want to make you stop and really consider things. So let me try and do the same. Here’s my thought-provoking statement –
What you think about shapes who you become.
Are you going to the gym tomorrow or not? Well, if there are burpees, you might spend more time than you want thinking about a recovery day and end up skipping. What about thinking of others versus thinking of yourself? When we spend more time thinking about the needs of others, we put them first. But if it’s all about us, then life will be all about us. What you think about shapes who you become.
Which is important in our prayer life. Prayer is our way of communicating with God. Just like we talk with our friends and loved ones, we talk with God the same way, but through prayer. What do you think about when you talk to God? Do you dream about a life with no debt or where your kids are all happily married? Do you think of your needs like gas and groceries and electricity? Or maybe you think about your desires like the perfect job or the perfect post on social media. But how much time do you spend letting God provide those thoughts? This is the spiritual exercise of contemplative prayer. First used by the ancients and then by followers of Jesus for thousands of years, contemplative prayer expresses or involves prolonged thoughts – but not your thoughts, God’s thoughts.
Instead of opening our mouths and confessing or asking or yielding, we open our hearts and sit into God’s presence. We clear our mind, settle in, and enjoy time with God where we are silent. Like any good relationship, simply being in the presence of the other person deepens the level of intimacy, and contemplative prayer deepens our connection to God in the same way. If you’re new to this spiritual exercise, let me invite you to start small with two to three minutes of meditation to clear your mind, then five to seven minutes enjoying the presence of God. If you find your mind wondering, use your breath to recenter and refocus. Connect to God in a deeper way and watch how He provokes your thoughts through contemplative prayer.
Questions for Reflection:
Have you ever tried to just sit still with God? What was your experience like?
Where would contemplative prayer best fit into the rhythm of your typical day?