A gentle, beautiful description of Contemplative Prayer

Spiritual Practice: Sitting with a Question
by Beth A. Richardson

We live in a world full of questions, some of which cannot be answered. Living in questions rather than answers is not a comfortable place for many of us.

Try the following practice for 5 to 7 days. Rather than finding an answer to a question or thinking about it, the idea is to let a question float into your heart, where God’s presence can sit alongside it, be present in your feelings, or speak to you in the silence.

Set aside an uninterrupted fifteen or twenty minutes. Invite God to sit with you in this quiet time and ask for God’s presence as you ask yourself a question.
Settle yourself comfortably, yet solidly, in a chair. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth five or ten times. Then close your mouth and breath normally.

Observe each breath as it comes and goes. Concentrate on where you feel the rising and falling of the breath in your body. If it helps you focus on the breath, count the breaths up to ten and then start over again. Or think about a prayer word or phrase that will help your thinking mind slow down and come to a quiet place.

When you find yourself distracted by a noise or a thought, gently return your focus to the breath or to your prayer word or phrase.

When your mind is quiet, ask yourself a question. This could be a big or a small question, one that has just occurred to you or one that you have been carrying inside for a long time. Ask the question as though you were asking someone else. Then let the question sink into your heart, into your breath. As you continue to breathe, observe the emotion, the image, the sense, that comes to you. Let yourself breathe into, pray into, soak into whatever comes to you.

If you find yourself engaging in vigorous thoughts or debates about the question, gently return to counting your breaths or focusing on your prayer word or phrase.

After a time, gently let your awareness come back to your surroundings.

As you finish your time of meditation, say a prayer of thanks for God’s presence, for quiet, for questions, for feelings.

You may find that after a day or two or three, you have a sense of the answer to the question. Or it may be a question that you might need to sit with for a week, a month, or longer. Sometimes you might find that the question of your heart changes. The point of the exercise is to make the space to ask the questions. To listen to what comes forth, not from your thinking mind, but from the space within you when you quietly connect with God’s Spirit in prayer and meditation.

Adapted from "Questions from the Heart," Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, Vol. XXX, No. 3 (Nashville, TN: The Upper Room), 2015, 45-46