Contemplative Prayer


#1

This post is directed at those who already have considerable experience with contemplative prayer.

I am not new to the concept of contemplative prayer, but I am new to the serious practice of it. I had a strange experience the other night while praying and I was hoping to get a little guidance about my experience and find out whether it is normal and trustworthy, or something else.

On this occasion quieting my mind was particularly difficult and after some time I began to get a little frustrated. I eventually gave up the “effort” I was putting forth to find silence and resigned myself to my ignorance and inability. As I expressed my openness to whatever God may have for me in this moment (rather than my own attempts to create something out of the moment), I felt an intense awareness that I was not alone. I felt something that I have felt before in other prayerful scenarios which I believe to have been the presence of God. But this was a little different. It was strong, intense, and nearly oppressive. I felt what I can only describe as heat overcoming me, like being under covers that are far too warm. My nervous system seemed to come alive, but in such a strange way.

After a few minutes of being in this state, I had to move and break the silence. I had to get away; it was just too intense. I opened my eyes and thought for a minute while prostrating on the ground, unsure of what to make of this experience. I was hoping that someone here might have had a similar experience and would be able to explain to me what I should do.

It is my hope that it is the presence of God to which I need to acclimate myself through more prayer; it is my fear that this is some sort of distraction and that I did something odd mentally or physically to cause this experience to occur.


#2

You might find it helpful to read from the writings of St Teresa of Avila otherwise known as St Teresa of Jesus.
I’m sure you’ll receive more specific advice from other posters.

Welcome but don’t seek such mystical experiences.
Thank God but don’t expect them.

They’re pure gift…and sometimes only received in the early stages of a life of contemplation: and sometimes mystical experiences are reserved for those who have already left any desire for them far behind. If a time comes that such experiences are no longer given it isn’t because a person has lost any degree of relationship with God but that God is taking a person trhough a maturing process. They may only come once…but the experience is an affirmation of God’s love and presence.

People can be deceived of course…but in your humble submission I don’t think that’s the case here.

God bless you, Trishie.


#3

this is the type of experience that should be discerned with a spiritual director, and yes it is common once we have reached the state of allowing God to direct our prayer, rather than relying on methods, to have such sensory or interior feelings, and for them to come directly from His love. To discern was the overall experience as you recall it comforting or not, scary but in a good way, as a challenge or call, not a threat, those types of questions are what a director would ask. If the primary impression left with you is assurance of his presence and love, then that is what you have received. If the primary impression that remains is malevolent by all means take this to a priest if you have no director.


#4

Cappadocian;

On this occasion quieting my mind was particularly difficult and after some time I began to get a little frustrated. I eventually gave up the “effort” I was putting forth to find silence and resigned myself to my ignorance and inability.

The best method to quiet your mind down, is to say the name of Jesus. Just repeat His name, and place yourself in His presence.

No harm can come to you, while calling on His name.

As I expressed my openness to whatever God may have for me in this moment (rather than my own attempts to create something out of the moment), I felt an intense awareness that I was not alone. I felt something that I have felt before in other prayerful scenarios which I believe to have been the presence of God. But this was a little different. It was strong, intense, and nearly oppressive. I felt what I can only describe as heat overcoming me, like being under covers that are far too warm. My nervous system seemed to come alive, but in such a strange way. After a few minutes of being in this state, I had to move and break the silence. I had to get away; it was just too intense. I opened my eyes and thought for a minute while prostrating on the ground, unsure of what to make of this experience. I was hoping that someone here might have had a similar experience and would be able to explain to me what I should do.

I have never experienced such a thing. I have felt God’s presence, through the intense feeling of love given to me, but it was within and nothing physical.

Either way, St. John of the Cross teaches, not to dwell on such things. When you become aware of these feelings, just let them go and don’t hang on to them. If they’re from God, as soon as you become aware of them, you’ve received all the grace that he intended to give you. If you continue to dwell on them, you’ll start to put your own ideas and agendas into them, and they will become distorted anyway. So, let them go.

It is my hope that it is the presence of God to which I need to acclimate myself through more prayer; it is my fear that this is some sort of distraction and that I did something odd mentally or physically to cause this experience to occur.

Spiritual experiences usually don’t happen in the physical body, but in the soul. They are spiritual, not physical.

Either way, as before, just move on.

Don’t go to prayer, expecting an experience. In our human weakness, we tend to latch on to things, in order to get an idea of our spiritual progress. Don’t. Most often, God’s transformation of our soul, takes place without our awareness.

God Bless
Jim


#5

Hello Cappadocian,

You might want to read a very good on-line book Spiritual Theology, by Fr. Jordan Aumann O.P. This is from his section on contemplative prayer, listing several of its characteristics:
*

  1. **An experience of the presence of God. *Many authors of mystical theology place great emphasis on this characteristic and consider it the essential note of infused contemplation. God gives to the soul an experimental, intellectual knowledge of his presence. This characteristic is essential for mystical contemplation but not for mystical experience in general because the soul may lack the experience of the presence of God when it is undergoing the passive purification of the soul, which St. John of the Cross describes as a “purgative” contemplation.

fide


#6

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