The Glaven Contemplative Prayer Group

Who are we ? We are a group of people who meet together every week to share our contemplative practice of prayer. We are drawn to silent prayer without words. By meeting regularly we foster a communal life together and encourage each other in our daily practice. The group has always been open to anyone and although the practice is rooted in the Christian contemplative tradition, you do not have to be a Christian or churchgoer to attend.

When and where do we meet? Every Tuesday at 5.45pm in the Methodist Chapel, High Street, Blakeney.

The contemplative practice we use We have taken as our main inspiration the tradition of Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating. This sets out a very simple method:

  • Choosing a sacred word, the shorter the word the better.
  • Sitting still and upright, with eyes closed, or open if you prefer. Introduce the word  silently with an intention to be open to God.
  • Whenever we become caught up in distractions (which Martin Laird calls the “cocktail party of the mind”) we return to the sacred word, to still the chattering of our thoughts and emotions and become present again.

There are other methods one can use within the Christian Contemplative tradition such as the Christian Meditation approach. This recommends continually saying a mantra during your prayer session, such as Maranatha  (“come Lord Jesus”) as taught by John Main.

These approaches have a lot in common. There is no set way. You can try them and decide which is best for you.

What is Contemplative Prayer? This method of prayer goes all the way back to the form of prayer Jesus used. He would often seek solitude to pray to his Father. Jesus clearly recommends a form of silent prayer when he suggests not using countless words and petitions, as our Father already knows our needs. Jesus also recommends going into our room, shutting the door and praying to our Father in private – a metaphor for withdrawing from distractions of thought and emotions into the interior spiritual self.

This type of prayer then took root with the Desert Fathers, the monastic tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and with mystics such as our own Mother Julian of Norwich. It has fallen out of favour since the Reformation, but since the 1960’s has grown in popularity especially with lay people. People such as Thomas Merton, John Main, Thomas Keating, and Martin Laird have helped to popularise this form of prayer by their writings. Those who have found their spiritual home in the Christian faith by adopting contemplative prayer do not have to go the East to discover the stillness within. This form of prayer breaks down barriers between faiths, as meditation and silent prayer are common to all the major religions.

Listening Before one can learn to be open to receive love, one has to listen – listening from a very deep place within us that most of the time is buried underneath activity, our preconceptions of ourselves and others and all the thoughts of the mind. Our images of God that we inherit are often infantile. After a while, if they remain unchallenged they become absurd. If we are to grow and come to know something of God in our lives we have to go into the solitude of our being, let our activity drop and simply be present in our listening to God. With practice, we start to grow in this intimacy and our following of Christ becomes natural and authentic. In a sense we have to “absent” ourselves so that we can let God be in our lives.

This type of prayer is by no means for everyone and there are other forms of prayer that allow and sustain growth. If you feel drawn to this type of prayer you have to respect and allow this particular calling in you to take root.

Practice This is for you to decide on. For Contemplative Prayer to deepen, regular practice is needed. The rough guideline is two twenty-minute sessions a day, the first one early in the morning, the second late afternoon or early evening. They can be extended to thirty-minute sessions later. Do what you can, and if that means shorter sessions, or only one session a day at first, that is fine.