The Sacred Pathway of the Contemplative (Part 9)
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Sword4Sail and is Part 9 in the Sacred Pathways of Walking With God.
Sacred Pathways Part 9 – Loving God through Adoration
God has always been in a love relationship with His people. Consider this verse in Deuteronomy 33, “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.” I feel most loved, most secure, and most at peace wrapped up in my husband’s arms. Many times he is God’s conduit of love for me. If the most common metaphor God gives us for His relationship to us is a marriage, a committed, passionate intimacy, then how much more so should our worship reflect that? This desire is particularly present in the Contemplative Christian.
Loving God through adoration – this is the mark of the Contemplative sacred pathway as described by Gary Thomas in his book, Sacred Pathways. This is a Christian who worships God best by just adoring Him: “holding hands,” sitting at his feet, and being His friend. They “seek the perception of God’s being or presence (193).” Contemplatives will rid themselves of anything that chokes desire for God, and learn to love Him deeper.
We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. In obedience to this command, David thirsts and seeks for God as a man in a desert seeks water. He finds God’s love to be “better than life,” and his soul is satisfied “as with the richest of foods (Psalm 63).” God doesn’t want just obedience, He wants to be loved, just like you and me. Jeremiah 2:2 says of Israel, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert.” His love for his people is so strong that when Israel betrays him it is likened to adultery. Contemplatives are often misunderstood and judged, like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet instead of making a meal, and the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ head (Matt 26). But this is the kind of worship God desires.
There are several “acts of contemplatives,” or in lovers’ language, “intimacy ideas.” These are things you can do with God to practice and develop the completely personal and unique relationship you have with your King and Savior who loves you more than all the room in the universe. Basically, I can’t tell you how to fall in love. But I can share some ideas of how to foster being aware of the presence of God.
One of the ways listed in Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways, is to love God through secret acts of devotion. This is anything from writing an anonymous note of encouragement and putting it in someone’s mailbox at church to sneaking out in the middle of the night to leave a gift basket for a needy family. You could also write a love note just to God, plant seeds in honor of Him, or sing a certain song only in His presence. Just like lovers have special secrets only they share, so you can love God by doing things and loving others only for Him.
There are several different ways to pray that focus on loving God and just being in His presence. The Jesus prayer has many forms, but a common one is, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The purpose is to help us refocus on God when our minds drift. It helps us remember who He is and who we are, and put our reliance on Him. Centering prayer is similar. Thomas describes it as an act in which you don’t do anything, “you’re simply resting in the presence of God (197).” You start by saying a word, such as ‘Jesus,’ ‘Father,’ ‘hope,’ or ‘love.’ When your mind strays, repeat the word to refocus. God commands us to, “Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10).” We don’t always need mental stimulation; sometimes we need to just be still with God.
Dancing prayer is when you allow God to take the lead and move you to pray. You let the Spirit lead, humbly acknowledging God’s wisdom in knowing what needs to be prayed for. Meditative prayer involves prayerful reflection on a biblical text or theme. I had never heard of the stations of the cross, but they are the various events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion and can be prayed through. Picture the truth of scripture at each development of the story and what you can learn. Allow the Spirit to lead. Finally, prayer of the heart focuses on the state of our heart as we enter God’s presence. Are we centering our adoration on God, or something else? Is our emotional state towards Him what it should be?
There are temptations even for those who like to sit in the presence of God. We can fall prey to thinking and acting as if the only way God can reveal his love is through one on one intimate encounters. He also chooses to reveal himself through others and things He has made. Just as you spend time doing things with your lover that they like and engage them in their interests, so you should engage God in his interests as Creator of man and nature. Contemplatives should also be wary of meditation methods that call for an emptying of self or being absorbed into God. While we are called to put off self, we are also called to be filled with the Spirit. Another temptation is forgetting virtue. As Thomas writes, “Just as marriage must pull two people beyond a crush to engage in a commitment built on self-sacrifice, so contemplatives must move beyond mere meditation to an alignment of our will with God’s will (203).” Like the Enthusiast, the Contemplative can become addicted to spiritual experience and exchange true worship of God for this lie.
Do you like to just be in the presence of God? Do you love Him your undivided attention? Should you be doing it more? Take the quiz below to discover if you are a contemplative! Let us know what you do to deepen your love with God. Try some of the methods above to worship the One who loves you passionately and come back next week to discover the Sacred Pathway of the Intellectual.
Are You a Contemplative?
Score this series of statements on a scale of 1-5. 1 is not true at all and 5 is very true. Any score of 15 or higher indicates a tendency toward this temperament. Keep track of your scores to complete a spiritual profile later.
1. I feel closest to God when my emotions are awakened, when God quietly touches my heart, tells me he loves me, and makes me fell like I’m his closest friend. I would rather be alone with God contemplating his love than participating in a formal liturgy or being distracted by a walk outside.
2. The most difficult times in my faith are when I can’t fell God’s presence within me.
3. The words lover, intimacy, and heart are very appealing to me.
4. I really enjoy having thirty minutes of uninterrupted time each day to sit in quiet prayer and “hold hands” with God, writing love letters to him and enjoying his presence.
5. I would enjoy reading The Transforming Friendship.
6. When I think of God, I think of love, friendship, and adoration more than anything else.