Divine union is the ultimate goal of prayer and indeed, all religious practices. Union with God is a state that is difficult to describe, but always seen as positive and life-enhancing, and has been sought by devotees of all faiths for millennia. This experience is not always achieved during contemplation, but daily contemplative practice enhances the openness and ability of the practitioner to accept such an experience when it is given.
Formal group prayer, such as church or temple worship services, can be used in a variety of ways, including contemplation. Large group services can be bland and easily ignored, or prayed with intercessory fervor, but they can also be used as opportunities for contemplative attention to the words used or the music played, and can help in achieving awareness of the sacred.
The type of prayer that does not assist a person in achieving divine union is simple intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer involves the devotee simply asking, or in some cases, begging, for what is wanted or needed, for example, “Please get me this new job” or “Please make my wife well”. People will sometimes even bargain with God hoping to entice God to give them what they want (“I’ll go to church every Sunday if You let me close this important business deal”). This type of prayer involves little listening and a great deal of monologing. Contemplative prayer, however, involves a quiet listening for any message God may send; this cannot be done while giving God your to-do list.
God does not demand our prayer; we pray because we are called to, to make sacred space in which to find God and remember where we belong. Taking the path of contemplation to the Divine is a lengthy process, and not always satisfying. It can take many years to achieve an illuminative experience, but it is a path worth the journey.
Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp. All rights reserved.