by Jonathan Gamble, Staff Writer

What is the relationship between liberation and contemplation? Are they different starting points, or is there a deeper connection? What does the monk have to do with the activist? Some believe only the privileged have the time to practice contemplative prayer. But they don’t really know what it is.

Contemplative prayer is simply an action, practice, or word through which I can entrust my very being to God and consent to whatever God longs to give me and asks me to do. I could spend an hour everyday sitting still in my room with my eyes closed and never do this. On the other hand, I could watch football for hours and do this very well. The reason why I needed to learn to spend time each day in silence consenting to God’s action is because for so long I was taught to do without first learning to invite God into what I do, let alone waiting for God to direct what I do.

A wise woman once told me that contemplative prayer is not about doing certain things. It’s about doing everything more prayerfully with God’s permission.

Oppressors do not practice contemplative prayer.  Oppressors do not practice contemplative prayer because the practice itself would not allow them to remain oppressors for very long. Rationalizations, our own dream for our lives, false hopes, and distractions have a way of drying up in the uninterrupted presence of God. Inviting the Holy Spirit to direct my actions in the world and spending time alone with God has a way of aligning me with God’s dream for my life and the world and giving me the power to renounce that which is incompatible with it.

I cannot align myself with God’s vision of liberation if I oppress my true self. The root cause of oppression is self-oppression; that is, the active suppression or disregard for one’s baptismal self in Christ. It is the illusion that I can be myself without first giving myself away with abandon. Contemplative prayer is simply the means by which the baptismal self and its liberative vocation in the world becomes conscious, empowered, and attuned to the voice of the One who knows the landscape of oppression and privilege much better than I do. Contemplation stills the movement that keeps me from opening to the movement of the Holy Spirit seeking liberation in this world.