By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Institute
We’ve got a little suggestion for an Easter gift for yourself. We hope you will consider it.
Our suggestion is that sometime during Holy Week next week you set 15 minutes aside for contemplative prayer.
It doesn’t require much. And except for the time involved, it’s absolutely free.
We do suggest that you find a comfortable place to sit where you can have the reasonable expectation of 15 minutes without interruption. (If that expectation doesn’t work out, please try again later.)
Some will find it works best in a Eucharistic chapel. Others will take a walk in the woods. Still others will gravitate to their nearest and most comfortable chair. Your choice. It doesn’t matter … as long as you are comfortable doing it.
If it’s convenient and you don’t want to run over time, set an alarm. Then you won’t be distracted by wondering how much time remains.
A warning: If you go on line, you will quickly discover that even prayer is a source of discord today.
- Some will equate meditation with contemplation. Others have written whole books on the differences between the two.
- Some will suggest “centering prayer” as a form of contemplation and/or meditation. Others are happy to proclaim that “centering prayer” is not a Catholic practice.
- Some Catholic sources speak of praying the rosary as a prayer of contemplation. Others would disagree.
So what’s a Catholic to do?
What I have in mind for your Easter gift is very simple. Try to set aside 15 minutes just to listen to God.
You don’t need a prayer book or notes or even a rosary, although if you think they will help, by all means have them at your side.
But in this instance of contemplation the point is to try to clear your mind to listen. Just listen.
If you do that, it’s likely you will hear from a lot of other sources besides God.
- You might recall the unfinished items on your “to do” list.
- You might think of the birthday card you need to send or the call to a friend you should make.
- You might wonder if you are sitting properly or if the clothes you need later in the evening are clean.
Your mind will likely light up with a lot of things. That’s okay. Just let them go. Just try to clear your head … to listen.
If it helps, become conscious of your breathing. Breathe slowly in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. But don’t focus on your breathing. Do it a couple of times and let go of it. Just listen.
My guess is that you will find it difficult – just like everyone I have ever talked to who tried it. But keep trying. Just let the next thought go and hear yourself breathe. Then let that go too.
Will you hear God speak to you? I can’t guarantee that. It’s above my pay grade. Way above it. But God might.
And if you are listening, you will hear … in your heart, maybe too in your head, and maybe even with your ears.
It’s up to God how to communicate with you.
There’s only one thing I can guarantee: If you don’t listen, you won’t hear.
So give it a shot. Or maybe two. Or maybe more. Just listen.