Posted in Spiritual practices

Contemplation

“Contemplation, or contemplative prayer, has the potential to be the most transformative practice in our life. It is the way out of the cramped prison of dualism. As long as we remain imprisoned in the reactive world of dualistic thinking, spiritual growth is impossible. There are transformations that can occur only if we learn to look at the world free from the distorting lens of us-versus-them dualism. If we always look at the world through our single-view lenses, we will never change. Contemplation offers us a new way of looking at the world. In order to see the world the way God sees it, we need some contemplative breakthroughs…

“Contemplative prayer is prayer without agenda, and largely without words. But this is not to be confused with just ‘thinking’ about something. This is bringing the issue into the presence of Jesus—the Light who coming into the world enlightens every person (John 1: 4). It’s during contemplative prayer that we can begin to move out of the darkness of fear-based bias into the light of Christ. It works like this—when we feel hurt, threatened, or angered by a person, people-group, opinion, or situation, we instinctively look through the lens of self-defense. It’s like looking at something through the sights of a gun—it’s a narrow perspective framed in fear and held in hostility. Such a perspective is certainly not the full or true perspective. But if we are dualistic, non-contemplative people, we will think of our highly limited perspective as total truth. It’s all we can see. This is the black-and-white world where everything is framed as win-or-lose, us-versus-them…

“The ultimate goal of contemplation is not just a new way of seeing, but love. Everything about God tends toward love. God is love. The highest form of knowing is not empiricism or rational thought—as the Enlightenment told us—but love. For the Christian, true enlightenment doesn’t come from empiricism but from Christ. Christian enlightenment is not about rationalism, it’s about love. You don’t really know a thing until you love it. You don’t really know people until you love them. But if you see a person or group primarily as a rival posing a threat to your self-interest, you cannot love them. You will only fear them, and reacting in fear you will lash out at them. A contemplative breakthrough makes love possible…

“Contemplation is the way out of the cage of fear and anger. But remember, you don’t begin with contemplation, you begin with liturgy. Until you are properly formed in prayer, you’re not ready for a contemplative breakthrough. As long as you are in charge of your own praying, you will never see the world significantly different than you do now. Prayer is not about persuading God to do our bidding, prayer is about coming to see the world through God’s eyes of love. You can get there faster if you say (and mean), ‘Lord, I’m willing to see this differently. I’m willing and I want to see this through your eyes.’ ”

-Brian Zahnd, Water To Wine (Spello Press), loc. 1129, 1136, 1176, 1182, 1196, 1203, 1216, 1222. 

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