“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3. NRSV).
There is a big misconception that has been going on way too long. It is the thinking that there is only one to four ways to experience contemplative prayer and mysticism. Sitting is solitude and silence is probably the greatest way to experience contemplative prayer. Lectio Divina is best done when we are quietly reading the Scriptures and going through the methodical progression of Lectio (reading), Meditatio (Meditate), Oratio (prayer) and Contemplatio (Contemplation). This too is true. Using a routine prayer form such as using Prayer Beads, or the Prayer Rope, or even walking through a forest, are great ways to enter into union with God in prayer. All of these are amazingly good ways to practice contemplative prayer.
The biggest misconception is that contemplative prayer is about us. It happens because of something we must do; and if we do not do it and experience some kind of emotional and/or spiritual ecstasy, then we must be doing something wrong.
Contemplative prayer that opens up the possibility of a mystical experience is about God’s grace meeting us where we are, and seeing in our hearts the yearning desire to find union with God. A yearning search that is there by God’s initiative waiting for us to accept the opportunity to let God be God, and get ourselves out of the way. Contemplative prayer is not about being perfect. It is about God reaching us within the whole of ourselves, seeing us as we are, where we are, and us experiencing how blessed we are to be so poor in spirit, that God brings the Kingdom of God to live within us.
Jesus’ invitation to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV) is God seeing us from God’s perspective. Our deep desire to experience God from the depths of ourselves is in the here and now; even if we are depressed, in despair and wondering where God is. God is in the wondering. God is in the searching. The God we are searching for and wondering about, has already found us. In Jesus, God has told us that we are blessed because we are poor in spirit. God also told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is ours; not just in the world to come, but in the here and now.
“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of that Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Proverbs 5:3)”. (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 19:1).
Do you know in the whole of your being, that God sees you as being blessed?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB