Come, Pray, and Rest in God

By Lisa Batten

Young Adult Initiatives Coordinator, Michigan Conference reprinted with permission

“Though it has acquired other meanings and connotations in recent centuries, the word contemplation had a specific meaning for the first 16 centuries of the Christian era. St. Gregory the Great summed up this meaning at the end of the sixth century as the knowledge of God that is impregnated with love. For Gregory, contemplation was both the fruit of reflecting on the Word of God in scripture and a precious gift of God. He referred to contemplation as ‘resting in God.’ In this ‘resting,’ the mind and heart are not so much seeking God as beginning to experience what they have been seeking. This state is not the suspension of all activity but the reduction of many acts and reflections to a single act or thought in order to sustain one’s consent to God’s presence and action.

“In this traditional understanding, contemplation, or contemplative prayer, is not something that can be achieved through will, but rather is God’s gift. It is the opening of mind and heart—one’s whole being—to God. Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation. It is a relationship initiated by God and leading, if one consents, to divine union.”

This excerpt from Contemplative Outreach begins an explanation of contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition. The desert ammas and abbas (mothers and fathers) of the first century left metropolitan centers and entered the wilderness in order to seek this resting in God. Through the centuries, contemplative prayer has found expressions and has often served as a bridge between the spirituality and faith of the Eastern and Western churches. We, too, are invited to this resting of the mind, heart, and spirit.

Across the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church, there have been leaders and movements to center contemplative practices, including discernment groups at Annual Conference, retreats, and pilgrimages. Currently, there is a movement led by younger adults in our conference to engage in contemplative practices, offering a place of resting in God in local ministry settings and a monthly online Contemplative Cohort. For more information on joining this cohort, email Lisa Batten.

This year, two retreats are being offered as an introduction to contemplative practices. Both retreats will offer something whether you are a curious beginner or a more seasoned practitioner. Both retreats offer times for group and individual practice, optional spiritual direction, and sermon preparation time for those in local ministry settings.

We look forward to seeing you at one of these retreats.

February 16-18, 2023
Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center
Learn more and register by clicking this secure link.

October 16-18, 2023
Lake Huron Retreat Center
Learn more and register by clicking this secure link.