Praying vs. Contemplating

Tuesday, September 5th, 2023

Today I am going to look at a few scriptures in Luke. God has been gently showing me lately the difference between prayer and contemplation. Let’s look at the definition of each according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Prayer is: “a solemn address to the Supreme Being, consisting of adoration, or an expression of our sense of God’s glorious perfections, confession of our sins, supplication for mercy and forgiveness, intercession for blessings on others, and thanksgiving, or an expression of gratitude to God for his mercies and benefits.” Contemplation is: “The act of the mind in considering with attention; meditation; study; continued attention of the mind to a particular subject.” I am very good at contemplating things. My mind is constantly fixated on something. Either I am trying to solve some problem, wrestle with a wide variety of emotions, role play how I think a certain situation is going to happen or try to figure out why something is happening the way it is. Often, there is no prayer in this. It’s just me tossing around ideas or scenarios in my mind and trying to make something good out of them, but more often than not, failing miserably at doing so. You see, I am missing addressing these things to God. Let’s look at the first set of passages in Luke 18. In verses 1 and 5-7 we see:

1Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,

yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?

The judge didn’t really want to help the widow, but because she was so persistent, he gave her what she was asking for. Then Jesus says that God will do the same for us as we continue in perseverance to bring to Him the things that weigh on us. I am reminded of the story of Moses when he actually convinced God not to destroy the very people He saved (Exodus 32:11, 14):

11 Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Do we have faith like this? I am in no way saying we can be the puppeteer and God the puppet. All I am asking is if we can pray with such faith knowing that God hears our prayers, and He will answer them. It may not look exactly like we think it should, but God will honor a heart that is broken and crying out before Him. The widow wasn’t contemplating and stewing in her house hoping that the judge would favor her. Notice that contemplation is a very internal and, in many cases, prideful sort of act. It’s believing that if I think about or meditate on something long enough, I will somehow figure it out or make it better. Prayer on the other hand is external. The widow went out to where the judge was and voiced her needs to him. Prayer is getting out of our own soul and realizing that we have a Supreme Being who deserves our adoration, can bring the light of truth to our deepest darkest moments and can be trusted with everything we encounter in life. All these things that I spend way too much time contemplating I need to just surrender to the Father and trust that He doesn’t need me to roll it around in my mind for hours and sometimes days in order to solve it. Prayer is an act of faith. Contemplation says that we are lacking in faith. I am not saying that it’s wrong to think about things. God gave us a mind and He loves when we use it. However, when we ruminate on something to the point where we cannot think about or do anything else that’s when we need to simply surrender it to God and move on. This is the part God is helping me with. It’s that simple realization of, “Wow, I have just spent the last hour thinking about how to fix this thing and worrying about what will happen if I don’t. I should have just spent the first minute praying to God and leaving it in His capable hands. Then I could have spent the next 59 minutes better focused on the task that was before me.” There is no condemnation in this, it’s just understanding that my contemplation is not really doing what I think it is. God never asked us to take on more burdens. He wants us to come to Him and leave it all at the cross. Then we truly will be free and more able to hear what Holy Spirit is saying or see where he is prompting. Contemplation is nothing more than a distraction from this flow of the Spirit. Let’s look at the last passage. In Luke 18:38-39 it says:

38 And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

I love this picture. The blind man was crying out to Jesus and when others tried to silence him it just emboldened him and he cried out to Jesus even louder. When someone, something or a lie from the enemy makes us think that our prayers are crazy or will never get answered do we shrink back in shame, or do we cry out to God even louder?

Final Thoughts…

I will be honest, more often than not I am stifled by the ungodly voices that rear up against what God is wanting to do in and through me. Let’s get out of that place. Let’s persevere in prayer no matter how many times we have to get out of our comfort zone to do so. Let’s never let our voice be silenced no matter who is trying to shut us down. God is the only one who can completely and fully answer our prayers. He is the only one that hears every prayer we pray. But we have to make an effort to be free from contemplating things and actually pray. Take all those temporal thoughts and lay them at the foot of the cross so that we can be fully eternally minded. All of the things around us will fade away someday. God is the only one that will remain. Yes, someday we will dwell with Him in eternity, but we have that same opportunity here on earth. He wants us to involve him in every single detail from the mundane and boring to the exciting and life changing. Let’s commit to praying constantly and never losing heart.