If you haven’t read the introduction to this series please read it here first.
Contemplatives worship, love and draw near to God in a way that is widely understood, and this may be because David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, was a contemplative, and his psalms are a major part of the Judeo-Christian heritage. Contemplatives love, worship and draw near to God through adoration, often with a love so strong and passionate it comes across as romantic. Consider Psalm 63:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water… Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you… My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; With singing lips my mouth will praise you… I think of you through the watches of the night… My soul clings to you.
Perhaps if David’s contemplative adoration had not been heavily recorded, contemplatives after him would have come under heavy judgment from other Christians; how can you be talking to God like that? Is He your lover?
In this regard, Christians with this temperament are blessed. Everyone familiar with the Bible knows that God not only permits worship like this, but actually enjoys it. David knew it; Mary of Bethany knew it; the woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped his feet with her hair knew it.
Some still judge them today, nonetheless. As Gary Thomas rightly notes, “The activist may have a hard time accepting the contemplative. The traditionalist might think the contemplative shallow. The intellectual might find the contemplative’s worship to be nothing less than a mystery. The enthusiast might find the contemplative’s worship to be boring. But to God, the contemplative’s worship is cherished, valued and rewarded.”
Like John the Beloved, contemplatives love to rest their head on Jesus’ chest. Theologians also tell us that Song of Solomon not only depicts the legitimate and deep passion between a husband and a wife, but is also a picture of Christ and His Bride.
God calls us to love Him with our hearts. Contemplatives understand that our walk with God through Christ Jesus is based on love, not laws; a transforming relationship. Yet even under the Law, Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 33:12 concerning the tribe of Benjamin, describes a contemplative’s role:
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”
Are you a contemplative? Do you feel closest to God when your emotions are awakened? When you think of God, do you think of love, friendship, and adoration more than anything else? Does having thirty minutes of uninterrupted time a day to just sit in quiet prayer in God’s presence and “hold hands” with God sound enjoyable to you?
If yes, you can benefit from these few tips (and come up with others as you are led) to grow spiritually as a contemplative, knowing that God’s love is not only to be enjoyed but shared with others also.
- Stay connected to God all day with little prayers and “aspirations” just as you stay connected to your loved ones via quick texts and calls just to “hear your voice”.
- Practice secret acts of devotion like an anonymous gift of cash to someone, an anonymous note of encouragement to a minister or a friend.
- Have a symbol of your love for God you can carry in your pocket, or wear, like a necklace or a ring.
- Devote time to spend in God’s presence in intensive prayer and fasting.
- Write a love letter or a poem to God that nobody but you and He will ever see; you may want to burn it afterwards.
- Go into prayer without an agenda, a list or intentions, and let the Holy Spirit take the lead, as though it were a dance.
- Practice centering prayer (picking a word like “Jesus”, “Father”, “Love” or “Holy” and focusing on it, repeating it silently in your soul for a set amount of time as a way to rest in His blessed presence), meditative prayer (prayerful reflections on biblical truths), and prayers of the heart (moving prayer from the plenty talk and requests we are used to, to just focusing on God in your heart and adoring Him.)
- Pray through the stations of the cross. This has historically been a popular method of contemplation. I’m not Catholic, but it remains one of the most profound spiritual experiences I have ever had, and it made the glory of the resurrection so much more enjoyable for me. What passion! What victory!
You should also watch out for these temptations as a contemplative:
1. Losing balance: God wants us to delight in Him, but He also wants us to share His love with others. Human relationships are important, and God can reveal Himself when you are with other believers just as he can when you’re alone on your knees.
2. Getting sucked into New Age and unorthodox practices: Not all meditation is biblical. Meditation that calls for you to “empty” your mind is anti-Christian. Be filled with the Holy Spirit continually. Also, beware of any meditation that calls for your ego to somehow be absorbed into God. God is God, and you are you. As Gary Thomas puts it, “We can relate to God, but we cannot be absorbed into God. Such foolishness is not Christian thinking.”
3. Forgetting virtue: In our relationship with Christ, just as in marriage, love is more than gazing adoringly at the beloved. As you devote yourself to adoration, remember we are called to turn from sin, put aside weights, bring our will into alignment with God’s will, and obey Him as we run this race.
4. Addiction to spiritual experiences: In contemplation and adoration, one often experiences a foretaste of heavenly joys. It can be so intense that you start to want it all the time, and then when you don’t “feel” it, you doubt God’s presence. When we begin to seek feelings and experiences instead of God, we slide into error.
You are the only person who can give God your love and adoration, no matter how many others are giving Him theirs. Enter His presence, and sit awhile with Him.
Next Sunday we’ll be reviewing Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind
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