Christ our Redeemer

Praying without a List

Author Ed Cyzewski writes about learning to pray in a contemplative manner and the pushback it gets.

Christian leaders have attacked contemplatives on and off for centuries, banning their books and threatening contemplatives with prison, exile, or death. The more concentrated church power became, the more it opposed contemplation. This type of prayer is beyond the scope of leadership’s control because it is interior and personal, even if it is cultivated and supported in community or through spiritual direction.

Mystics of all stripes probably should be pushed against, because they tend to encourage a loosely defined Prozac spirituality that leaves religious distinctives in favor of personal inner peace. Contemplative prayer habits step into the space of mystical Christianity. But I suspect the modern evangelical criticism of it comes largely from modernist thinking, not solid biblical interpretation.

For generations we have been taught that segments of the Christian life can be accomplished in a few clear steps. For prayer, some teach the pattern of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Such a pattern can be helpful in directing our prayers, but as with so many things we may hold to the pattern more than we hold to the Lord. And whether we pray this way or another way, we may hold to the answers we receive more than we hold to our Lord, even telling each other that our prayers were answered because we delivered them in a specific way. Contemplative prayer puts those things aside, so we have very little to hold onto and ask whether we’re doing it right.

If this is a habit that can cultivate a deeper satisfaction in Christ, then we need not neglect it.

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