TFP 107: What Is Contemplative Prayer?

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Notes By Matt Pettry


The goal of any act of devotion to Jesus is for the purpose of communion with Him and Union to Him.  We are to become image bearers. As we are with Him we become like Him. As we behold Him we are transformed by the Holy Spirit into His image.

I don’t know of a more sure way to put myself in a position to receive the grace of God for transformation into His image than communion with the Holy Spirit through contemplative prayer.

For all the different definitions of contemplative prayer out there – All writers on contemplative prayer echo the same thing – the goal is union with God.

“Contemplative prayer represents the natural progression of love towards greater intimacy with God.  As John of the Cross taught, “it is the nature of love to desire unity with the object of its love.”  This is why Scripture so often uses the image of marriage as the most appropriate metaphor for the love relationship that God desires with us (Hos. 1-3, Isa. 54:5, Eph. 5:31-32, Rev. 19:7).  From the deep yearning that such prayer evokes, our own hearts cry out as well for unity with our “Abba” (Gal. 4:6)   What we seek is nothing short of the intimacy of marital hope whereby “the two shall become one.” Imago Dei Community


Walter Hilton: Contemplation is “love on fire with devotion.”

Contemplative prayer is simply an aspect of prayer that explores the more receptive side of our relationship with God.  It describes the more passive posture that we sometimes assume in prayer.

“The Jewel of Contemplative Prayer Has Many Facets” J. Goll.

  • Contemplative prayer is essentially, communion with the Holy Spirit as we create a space of silence, listening, and waiting in His Presence. It is an interior communion.
    • Jan Johnson describes Contemplative prayer “…in its simplest form, is prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God alone…its paying attention to God…its loving God.”


  • Websters: Contemplate: to gaze at intensely, to think about intensely, to expect or intend, to meditate, to muse.


    • Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home:“Contemplative Prayer immerses us into the silence of God.  How desperately we in the modern world need this wordless baptism!  We have become, as the early Church father Clement of Alexandria says, like old shoes – all worn out except for the tongue…Contemplative  prayer is the discipline that can free us from our addiction to words…” “Progress towards intimacy with God means progress towards silence… The desert father Ammonas, a disciple of Saint Anthony, writes:  I have shown you the power of silence, how thoroughly it heals and how fully pleasing it is to God…Know that it is by silence that the saints grew, that it was because of silence that the mysteries of God were known to them.”


  • Listening Prayer
  • Seeing Prayer (Praying Imagination/Sanctified Imagination)
  • Practicing the Presence of God
  • Waiting on God
  • Silent Prayer (Wordless Contemplation)
  • Contemplation is rooted in meditation on the Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. His attributes, His Kingdom, His Scriptures.
  • Guerric Heckel: “Contemplative Prayer is a fast of the false self and a coming Home to the true self.”  The “false self” is the “old self” of Eph 4:22.
  • Contemplative prayer is a kind of communion intended to increase our intimacy with God and awareness of His presence.
  • Contemplative prayer is being still in order to know God (Ps. 46:10).
  • Contemplative prayer is an exercise in resting in God. It is not a state of suspension of all activity, but the reductions of many acts to a simple act of saying yes to God’s presence during a time of inner, quiet, devotional prayer.
  • Contemplative prayer is an activity aimed at fostering the conviction and realization that God lives in us.
  • Contemplative prayer is an exercise in purifying our intentions to desire only one thing – God. It is an act of love, a desire not for the experience of God, but for God himself.

Bible Verses on Silence and Meditation:

Gen 24:21  “The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.” 

I Sam 1:13  “Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.” 

I Kings 19:12  “After the earthquake (there was) a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” 

Job 6:24  “Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone wrong.” 

Job 13:5  “If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom!”

Ps 4:4  “When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.”

Ps 39:9  “I am silent; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it.”

Ps 62:1,5  “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”

Ps 131:2  “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”

Isa 30:15  “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

 Isa 32:17  “The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

Isa 53:7  “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” 

Lam 3:26  “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Hab 2:20  “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”

Zeph 1:7  “Be silent before the lord God!  For the day of the Lord is at hand.”

Rom 3:19  “We know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced.” 

James 1:19  “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” 

Rev 8:1 “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

Psalms 1:1-6 “Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.”

Psalms 19:1-14 “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.

Ezekiel 3:1-3 “Eat this scroll and go, speak to the house of Israel.”

Phil. 4:8-9 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable…if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

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