Last year, a church in Telford, Pennsylvania, decided to try something different for its weekly services. The pastor and elders worked with a writer in the congregation to come up with five one-hour quiet prayer sessions for the sanctuary.
Quotes, Scripture, meditations, and questions to stimulate introspection were put together on various prayer-related themes and printed in bulletin form for parishioners to use during the established hour each week. The themes included Quietness, Worship, Humility, Intercession, and Abiding.
Instrumental music played softly in the background as members sat in quiet contemplation, followed the prayer guide, and prayed with an elder if desired.
Our church is very fellowship oriented, reports one elder. We seldom have a quiet sanctuary. This gave me the opportunity to take my personal quiet time into the formal church setting. It felt like the prayers and compassion of worshipers who have prayed there before gave strength to my own.
Another member commented, At first I thought, why do I want to come out for prayer when I can pray at home? But I found that praying alongside others was different and heartwarming. Through the quietness, I was very aware of God filling the sanctuary.
Due to the success of this program, the elders and worship committee are already planning next years corporate quiet times.
Prayer without Words
Words help us verbalize what we are feeling, help us process the illusive ideas floating around our brain, and solidify our compassion when interceding for others. We don’t always know what to say or how to pray. We become speechless with intense joy or tremendous sorrow. Can we communicate with God when we struggle to express our innermost thoughts and desires.
We usually pray verbally, both in church and at home. Sometimes we pray out loud; other times we mentally form the sentences within. Words help us verbalize what we are feeling, help us process the illusive ideas floating around our brain, and solidify our compassion when interceding for others. We don’t always know what to say or how to pray. We become speechless in times of intense joy and gratefulness. Then there are times when words don’t seem to be enough, like in time of grief and sorrow. Can we communicate with God on a deeper level when we struggle to express our innermost thoughts and desires?
Words are not always necessary when communicating with our Creator. Prayer is more an attitude of the heart than an exercise of language. The Apostle Paul said, “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts know what the mind of the Spirit is, because He interceded for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27 NAS) God’s Spirit searches our hearts and minds and directly connects them to the heart and mind of God. All we need is the desire to communicate with Him and the Spirit opens the line.
This gives us great joy because nothing can block our prayers from reaching His ears. Too often we see God as “out there” while we are bound here to earth. We need to realize that, as Christians, the Spirit of God dwells within us. We do not need to be concerned when we feel our prayers hitting the ceiling. Go within. Concentrate on the presence of God in your heart.
That is how Contemplative Prayer “works.” It is a quiet intimate connection requiring no effort other than the realization that you are already enveloped in God’s presence, grace and love and that He is aware of everything that concerns you.
Prayer is two-way communication. Often God speaks to us without words as well. We “hear” impressions and are convicted of sin. Our paths are illuminated, our hearts quieted, our countenance becomes peaceful.
Offer Him your entire being when entering the presence of God and don’t worry about what you will say when you get there.
Pray! Magazine Issue 29 Mar/Apr 2002