Many years after the spiritual awakening that changed my life and led me here, I learned that—without knowing it—I had been imitating ancient Christian prayer practices that I never even knew existed, let alone been trained in.
I already knew without a doubt that the awakening was a direct result of this way of praying. But to learn it was a thing—with a name and a long history and a deep tradition with many movements, teachers, and schools, and a present-day resurgence—this was an awakening in itself! This time, to the power of the Holy Spirit as a teacher and the holy invitations hidden within scripture and worship and echoed by the faithful people in my life.
If you’ve been reading past newsletter articles and listening to past sermons, you already know lots of this story.
What I’d stumbled upon (and what I know for certain you’ve experienced too) through simple and earnest intention to learn from and follow Jesus was contemplative prayer and the Christian wisdom tradition.
What specifically had I stumbled upon? What was that ancient prayer practice that led to a spiritual awakening?
Well, pretty much every day, I read scripture and then I prayed with it (especially the part that was really speaking to me) and then I sort of lost myself with God. That’s it.
This, I later discovered, is called lectio divina or “sacred reading.”
Faith Forum participants are beginning to practice lectio divina daily. And we’ll use our Sunday gatherings as a time to reflect, troubleshoot, and support each other.
You can learn lectio divina too. Visit https://grow.ziondavenport.org/lectio and consider adding a practice of lectio divina to your daily Immerse bible reading.
Trust that even when nothing seems to be happening that something is happening. Remember, Jesus’ parables about seeds and growing. Most of the action is beneath the surface, imperceptible in the short term.
This may be beneath the excuse of not having enough time. To make time, you gotta trust that this way of “doing nothing” is really “doing something.” You gotta let go of the need to be productive, which is the need to prove your worth through busyness. Which is what makes it a practice of grace, of resting in God’s love. To stop trying to earn that love by “doing nothing,” you immediately reveal how deeply you trust (or do not trust) the unconditional nature of God’s love.
This new mind, the mind of Christ, is the goal of it all. No longer separating people or self or events or circumstances: the superior from the inferior, the productive from the lazy, the good from the bad, the worthy from the unworthy. Both/and, not either/or. Not fighting and resisting and excluding, but receiving and including. Including and transcending. Perceiving every one and every thing as part of the one, undivided whole of God-beloved reality: Christ Jesus in all and through all. So that “emptying” ourselves is no longer a loss but an expansion. This transformed consciousness is the “kingdom of God” Jesus was going on about.
If you want to go deeper with all of this, integrate lectio divina into your days. And maybe consider this list of books and one article. Faith Forum participants have either read a portion of them or encountered them through my teaching.
- “Contemplation: A long, loving look at the real,” Walter J. Burghardt
- Armchair Mystic: How Contemplative Prayer Can Lead You Closer to God, Mark E. Thibodeaux
- Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, Richard Rohr
- Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Richard Rohr
- The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming An Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart, Cynthia Bourgeault
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith