Jesuit Father Joe Spieler spoke at Saint Brendan Church in October about how to deepen our prayer lives by practicing contemporary contemplative prayer. Click here to listen to Father Spieler's complete talk.
Each of us has the capacity for contemplation. Contemplation is a long, loving look at the real, which could be the face of God, ourselves, or something beautiful in our lives.
Contemplation is the form of prayer where less is more. Words are not used very much. You might just use the word “Jesus” or repeat the phrase, “Lord have mercy.” Or you might just look quietly at a crucifix or an image of Jesus.
Place your feet flat on the floor. Take 5 or 6 deep, slow breaths. Feel the air coming in and feel it going out. Let your attention rest on your respiration. Distinguish the temperature of the air coming in and going out. What are the sensations on the inside of your nose?
Notice your breath for another 4 or 5 cycles. Notice the beating of your heart (wait 30 seconds). “Now, in prayer, we offer our whole selves to the Lord God. We offer the beating of our heart as our act of love.” (wait 20-30 seconds). Count down to 0 from the number 5. “Open your eyes when I get to zero.”
BODY AWARENESS EXERCISE
Place your feet flat on the floor. Let your eyes close. If your forehead is carrying tension, relax it. Let your jaw drop. Let your hands be relaxed, wherever they are. Become aware of the subtle sensations on the outside of your head where your hair is. Try to pick up any sensations that are there. (pause). Then move to your face. Become sensitive to sensations in your face. (pause) Then move to your shoulders. Pay attention to how your clothes are on your shoulders. Down your arms. Down into your hands. What are the feelings? What do you pick up? (pause) Then the base of your neck. Feel the support of the chair on your back. Down to your hips, thighs, knees, and ankles. Feel the shoes around your feet. Notice the support of the floor under your shoes. Repeat the body scan again. Head . . . face . . . shoulders . . . . arms, hands, and fingers . . . your back, down your legs, and down to your feet. Still breathing. Now do it a third time, from the top of your body down to your feet. (pause) Then one more time.
Try to notice and go to where there is an uncomfortable part of your body, perhaps a place is sore or in pain. Have your attention go there. Then, in an imaginative way, breath into your nose and imagine that the healing and strengthening and soothing of the Lord’s Spirit is breathed into your body, right to where that pain is.
Take 3 big breaths. 1 . . . 2 . . . 3. Open your eyes and stretch.
THE JESUS PRAYER
The “Jesus Prayer” sustained the early Christians. They would breath in and say the holy name of Jesus. J-E-S-U-S. It is a repetitive prayer that can be done for some period of time, like three to five minutes. Center yourself with your feet flat on the floor and close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing. As you inhale say the first syllable (J-E) and exhale with the second syllable (S-U-S). It’s very simple but can be very satisfying and very deep. It is just taking a chance on God’s grace and being in God’s presence and making ourselves available.