The Mystery of Contemplative Prayer


The more one lets go, the stronger the presence of the spirit becomes.

The Ultimate Mystery becomes the Ultimate Presence.

—Fr. Thomas Keating

In a world obsessed with having and doing it all at an ever faster pace, why in the world would you devote thirty minutes a week to sitting silently in a room with two or three others? On the face of things, it seems to go against reason and logic.

The speed at which many of us move through our lives causes us to stay constantly on the surface of our lives. We are so busy doing and having that we lack the ability to sink into our center – the place where our Christ consciousness resides. When this happens, we are at risk of losing our connection to ultimate purpose. We can easily forget how our work is connected to the Great Work of bringing about the Kingdom, or shalom, the place where peace and justice dwell.

When I stay obsessed with my story – my triumphs and successes – my fears and failures – I lose my ability to remember the much bigger story of Christianity. My story is important, but only as I am aware of my membership in the Mystical Body of Christ.

This is why it’s crucial for us to sit in moments of contemplative prayer.  We sit not only to find ourselves but also to awaken our sense of compassion for others. Fr. Keating puts it this way: “Once we begin our spiritual journey, there is no longer merely private prayer. Our prayer becomes a participation in the groanings of the Spirit for all the intentions and needs of the human family.”

While the language of the Kingdom, the Mystical Body of Christ, and contemplative prayer might be unique to Christianity, the concept is not. All the major wisdom traditions urge us to spend time in silence where we can slowly become aware of the Divine Presence and the part our own stories play in the unfolding of creation.

With the right perspective, sitting meditation or centering prayer becomes a very efficient use of our time. The deep mystery of contemplation that connects us to God and God’s purpose for humanity is ultimately why we sit.

At Seton Cove, we want to help bring you closer toward wholeness and one way to do so is by helping you understand why we sit during prayer. Seton Cove offers three morning contemplative prayer groups as well as a morning and evening Zen meditation group. Please join us for one or more of these sitting meditation groups. No registration is necessary