Why Bother to Contemplate?
My parents taught me to pray in a particular way. First, one had to have the right posture: kneeling without slumping your back. Secondly, hands were to be folded and eyes were fixed on an icon, such as a crucifix or a statue of one of the saints. If you closed your eyes while praying, people would think you’d gone to sleep.
I still remember the words and gestures to the sign of the cross and can say it in Polish. I recall the blessing we used to say before every meal, and the“Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys.” During lent, we said part of a rosary every night as a family while kneeling down in front of a statue of Mary. This routine made my back tired and my eyes sleepy.
I do not doubt the good intentions of my parents. They wanted to instill in their children the importance of prayer. But, whether I prayed or not, it seemed to make no difference to God or to Mary.
Later in life, when I was drawn to return to what little faith I had once possessed, I found myself visiting different churches. These places of worship also had a particular way of praying. Kneeling was no longer required nor was the folding of the hands. Instead, I could stand with eyes wide opened or closed, the palms of my hands facing upward or arms raised overhead. In these churches the only icon was an empty cross. Instead of ending prayers with an amen, now I learned to say, “In Jesus’ name.”
Though praying no longer involved scripted words, except for the three charmed words, “In Jesus’ name,” it still seemed my prayers changed nothing. I’ve never doubted the existence of God, yet touching base with him through my prayers, seemed futile. Then I began to muse, to wonder, to mull over, and to imagine. I began to contemplate.
Contemplation is simple. Neither special posture or words are required and there is no abracadabra to it. To contemplate means I remember what is true about God. He is present, a perfect father, who loves me perfectly. To contemplate means to rest because all I need I already have. To contemplate means to wait. There are no instant changes, but at the same time, everything changes about me.
Why bother to contemplate? To think on what is true is not a slam dunk prayer, rather it is a lifetime practice.