Q: I wonder why so many clergy are not aware of contemplative prayer? Even if they are, why don‚Äôt they share it with their congregations?
A: There is any number of reasons about why this is the case.
For many clergy, this was never part of their training in the seminary. It is only recently that more emphasis is being put on the contemplative dimension of the spiritual journey. A practice like Centering Prayer was just beginning to be known in the 1970s. Since then, many priests and ministers came to know it through their own efforts and interest. I am so happy that this has changed in recent years.
Another big reason why contemplative prayer is not widely taught or practiced is that many pastors have a lot of duties and responsibilities, i.e., a very heavy work load. You might then imagine what it feels like if someone comes to them and suggests something new to do ‚Äì like starting up a Centering Prayer group. The pastor may be open to it if someone volunteers to do all the work ‚Äì not only the introduction and setup but the ongoing facilitation of the group and its process. Many pastors are happy to give some space, but are unable to give the time – at least in the beginning. Pray that this will change as pastors see the fruits which flow from the prayer groups. So, if you are interested in starting a prayer group in your local church, get all the information from the local Contemplative Outreach chapter (see the Community section of our website for a list of local contacts), or from our website, and be ready not only to ask if a prayer group is possible, but also be willing to volunteer to make it happen.
Another big reason for the avoidance of the teaching and practice of contemplative prayer is lack of understanding. If you visit the FAQ section of our website, you‚Äôll see the last four Q&A‚Äôs in the Centering Prayer section directly address many of the misconceptions people and pastors have about the prayer practice and about the gift of contemplation. In a recent article in the Contemplative Outreach News, J. David Muyskens, a retired minister, addressed directly the Protestant barriers and misconceptions about the prayer. So there is still a lot of education needed to bring forth the deep roots that contemplation has in the history and teachings of the Christian tradition.