The Healing Power of Contemplative Prayer
by Kathy Keary
In our world today, so much is happening. It can gnaw at our sense of well-being. A common question in the hearts of many is: where do I turn to heal my wounded soul? The comforting power of contemplative prayer in times of difficulty cannot be overstated.
The past few weeks we have delved into focusing, a spiritual meditation that honors the wisdom that lies within us and speaks to us in a way that can be felt and cared for in our bodies. Any of the methods of contemplative prayer that we have explored in our series, An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life, can be a profound source of solace soothing our troubled spirits.
I have long attributed the feeling of healing to the practice of centering prayer. I liken this experience to the woman who only had to touch Jesus’ garment to be healed. In centering prayer, we simply consent to the divine presence and action in our lives by opening our hearts to God’s first language — silence. In doing so, we intentionally place ourselves in the presence of the Divine Healer who offers a loving embrace to still our souls.
We avail ourselves to be touched by God when we engage in Lectio Divina, sacred reading. As we read Scripture, the Spirit draws our attention to a particular word or phrase for our reflection. God speaks to us personally in real time through this holy text. For instance, today my attention was drawn to: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). These words assured me that the divine is very much with us in these troubled times. We only need to open our eyes to witness the divine goodness shining through the kindness and dedication of nurses, doctors, and essential workers and the conviction and perseverance of peaceful protesters.
‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5). These words assured me that the divine is very much with us in these troubled times.
In the practice of journaling, our hearts are opened to the Indwelling Spirit who gives birth to our words. Surprises often surface as the writer digs deeper to uncover what is stirring in the depths of their soul. Healing can occur by facing and naming unresolved issues placing them before our God of compassion and mercy.
A few weeks ago, I bowed to an urge to connect with the heart of God and memorialize what I found in my art journal. I was expecting a light, airy message. I was taken aback when I found God’s heart to be broken in the midst of our pandemic. Tears flowed from the Creator’s eyes.
It was clear that the divine stands in solidarity with the people of the world through our grief. I sensed that in the midst of this sadness, God is ever present and will show us the way. The Holy One is not aloof but walks with us. Spending time with the emotions evoked by this prayer experience was a way to not only acknowledge the presence of these strong feelings but to be with them for a while in a caring way.
Contemplative photography can also bring comfort to our bruised hearts. Activities that brings us into the present moment can have a healing effect. As you behold the world with not only your eyes but more importantly with your heart, the divine presence becomes unmistakably evident everywhere. The ordinary becomes sacred when you view the world through a lens of expectation – the expectation that the divine will be present in your midst. Scenes like the one depicted below become a sanctuary when one is on the lookout for God in the here and now. In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes…”
The ordinary becomes sacred when you view the world through a lens of expectation – the expectation that the divine will be present in your midst.
Healing can also be found in the contemplative practice of using your imagination in prayer. By placing yourself in the scenes depicted in Scripture, you are exposing yourself to the gentle touch of Jesus. How would you feel as you imagine Jesus washing your feet? What emotions would be evoked when you recognize our Savior in the breaking of the bread? What feelings would surface if it was you to whom Jesus said, “Rise, take up your mat and walk”?
It’s my hope that this review of various types of contemplative prayer will lead you to one that refreshes your soul in a time in our world when many are in need of healing. May God bless your journey, and may it always bring you ever closer to the One who calls you by name.
Note: New articles in this series will be posted to the website every Monday and Wednesday. The full series can be found here: An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life. On Thursday’s we’ll send an email to remind you of the articles
[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]