We find Contemplative Prayer hard, not because it is difficult. We find it hard because it brings pain before pleasure, emptiness before infilling.
The first thing we encounter
in silence and solitude is the
discomfort of the inner void.
The first thing we encounter in silence and solitude is the discomfort of the inner void. We flinch and instinctively want to fill that void with words and people and things and activity so that we don't feel so empty. God wants us to feel that emptiness, to enter into and embrace it, and then be silent and still while He fills the solitude and stillness with His Presence and Peace. But we instinctively first try other things, even good things.
Good things like active prayer.
The Silence of the inner void makes us feel very uncomfortable so we sometimes fill the emptiness with active fervent praying, praying with so many words God cannot be heard. There is then no silence in which He can speak.
Good things like enjoyable fellowship.
Solitude can be almost unbearable and the enjoyable fellowship of others sometimes fills our emptiness with solace and we no longer feel our lack. God wants us to feel the loneliness and the ache of heart and let that be an invitation to intimacy with Him.
Good things like activity and busyness.
Being Still can actually feel painful and activity and busyness sometimes anaesthetizes the pain and disconnects us from our empty and at times agonized self. He wants us to be still and feel long enough so He can fill the inner void with Himself, with His Sweet Spirit, and with His Pure Presence.
Pain seeks pleasure, physical pleasure, but there is no greater pleasure and delight than that found in His Presence. Nothing else will better alleviate the pain of the human condition.
Do not harden your hearts
as in the rebellion,
on the day of temptation in the wilderness,
where your fathers tested Me and tried Me
and saw My works for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
and they have not known My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”
Hebrews 3: 8 - 11 MEV
Entering into His rest - the beautiful rest of silence, solitude, simplicity and stillness - is a key to knowing His ways. They were not erring in their works. They went astray in their hearts and therefore did not know His ways. Only when we know His ways can we best serve Him.
The Worse and the Best
The worse thing about Contemplative Prayer is that it brings us face to face with ourselves before it brings us face to face with God.
This is one of life's most painful experiences. Nothing will do more to dissuade us of the idea that we are truly spiritual people than an attempt at Silent Contemplative Prayer. It does not produce spiritual giants. It produces people who discover they really are not. It is a rude reality check that fosters total and utter dependence on God.
The best thing about Contemplative Prayer is that it brings us face to face with ourselves before it brings us face to face with God.
But after we come face to face with ourselves, we will come face to face with God.