Darrow Miller and Friends

Sabbatical Reflections: Portals to Beauty (Part 2 of 3)

Once we have entered into relationship with the Beautiful One, how do we come further up and further in? One of the ways into deeper communion with God is what some saints have called contemplative prayer. This may be the heart’s reflection and longing for the Beautiful – the living God.

Fr. Thomas Dubay, a Catholic writer and spiritual mentor, describes contemplative prayer as “a real awareness of God, desiring and loving him, which we do not produce but simply receive from him when we are ready for it” (emphasis mine).[1] He continues, “our contemplation is a love matter before all else, a loving with our whole heart, mind and strength, a love poured out by the Holy Spirit of God himself (Romans 5:5).”[2]

This form of prayer could be called prayer of communion, for its nature is a profound communion with the living God. It might be identified as a prayer of conformation, because in this vital relationship we become more and more like Christ. It may well be described as transformative prayer because in the end we are changed from “glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The concept of contemplative prayer could be summarized by intimate communion. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word yada means “face to face.” This word describes the intimate knowledge that God has of man as well as of lovers as they lie face to face.  It is the image of the unspeakable in the Apostle Paul’s ecstatic prayer of intimacy in Ephesians 3: 14-19:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (emphasis mine).

Again, Fr. Dubay reminds us that this prayer is about intimacy, “deepening our relationship with the indwelling Trinity, even to the point of being ‘filled with the utter fullness of God.’”[3]

The focus of Paul’s prayer is communion with God, not a reflection on self. In today’s often narcissistic environments, much of our prayer focuses on self. God is viewed as a supersized genie that exists to meet our needs, provide for our wants, and fulfill all our desires.

The focus of contemplative prayer is on the Triune God, his being, his nature and his glory.  It is “a celebration of Trinitarian truth, goodness, and beauty; joining with the heavenly choir in its delightful immersion in divine Beauty .” (Rev. 5:9; 7: 9-12; 8:2-4)

This prayer of communion is not personal introspection, a dwelling on self; nor is it the popular Eastern form of contemplation of “centering” on one’s true self.  No, “God is not only greater than anything created:  he is endlessly greater, he is purest and unlimited power . . . love . . . joy . . . goodness . . . life . . . beauty, literally he is unspeakable.”[4] He is to be the center of our contemplation. Again Dubay reminds us:  “Even human love is cooled or killed by egocentric selfishness. So also with divine love.”[5]

Just as the focus is on God, so too, the initiative for this communion is from God. While we can commence prayer of confession and petition, the prayer of communion is initiated by God. We see this in the Old Testament; it was God who acted first to dwell among his people (Ex. 25:8; 29:28-46). In the New Testament, it was Jesus who came to dwell with us, to begin in intimate communion with us (John 1:1-4,14). And finally, when Christ died, it was he who sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within the life of the believer (John 16:5-13).

-Darrow L. Miller

[1] Dubay, Thomas; Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within; Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio (2002); pg 85

[2] Ibid 154

[3] Dubay  173

[4] Ibid 87

[5] Ibid 174

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).