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  • Writer's pictureshelisloterbeek

4am Contemplative Prayer

I'm an early riser, but some days I think we're just meant to wake up earlier. This morning, I felt like the universe must have something to say to me at 4am this morning as I was wide awake just laying in bed. Most times I just try to keep my eyes closed, but at that moment I was trying to see if our tiny dog was under the covers or over them so I could get more comfortable. (There's no moving a sleeping 8 pound dog between the hours of 11pm to 6am - it's physically impossible.)

And as I turned, I noticed a bright light spot outside. One thing that makes this remarkable is that I had no glasses on or contacts in and, not going to lie, my eyesight is terrible. So that sort of piqued my attention. It must be pretty bright if I could see it unassisted. Now fully awake, I put my glasses on to look.

And there it was, the brightest, largest star (or what I thought was a star) I had ever seen. I watched it for awhile. The size of it was quite remarkable. And then, so awake I was now wondering what star it was. So I pulled up the app that shows me where the stars are and their names (yes, I'm that person and if you don't have an app like this, go get one because it's a lot of fun!) Pointing the phone at the bright light I realize, it's no star at all. It's the planet Jupiter.

And there I sat with Jupiter. Quietly listening, watching, not googling about it (I did that later*). And then the bright light would dim momentarily and come back. Then again. And again, remaining dim longer this time. And as dawn began to break through the darkness the light of Jupiter gradually faded into the sky.

And that was my 4am prayer.

I receive questions frequently about prayer and more specifically, this kind of silent prayer. I will generalize as I say, most people I hear from say they only know how to pray with words. We've been taught to confess, praise, ask, give thanks and sometimes even lament. We've been taught acronyms so we don't forget any of the different things to say. But most of us have never been taught to just be still. Sit silently with God.

In contemplative prayer no words are necessary. Just silence. Gazing. Awe. Wonder. The space of contemplative prayer as I sat with Jupiter this morning. No magical or life changing thought came to me. Not even an "aha" moment that prompts me to ponder some other thought about God - (sometimes they do and that is a gift.) Just quiet. Mystery. With God. No expectations. This is contemplative prayer.

My window as I prayed contemplatively at 4am.
This photo was taken as dawn arrived and the stars and planets faded into her blanket of light.

This photo was taken as dawn arrived and the stars and planets faded into her blanket of light.

It's not complex, but it can be difficult. Contemplative prayer is a practice that draws us closer to the heart of God as we set aside our own agenda and listen openly. And a practice is just that - a PRACTICE. There is no winning or losing - just being.

*The planet Jupiter was named by the Romans after the king of their gods, Zeus, because it was the largest planet and therefore, in their minds, the most powerful. NASA says Jupiter means "The supreme god; Jove; Sky, heaven; God of the sky. Jupiter is a gender-neutral name of Latin origin and was borne by the supreme deity of the Roman gods." And I kind of just love that I sat in quiet with the god of the sky with God.

  • Do you have questions about contemplative prayer? Please feel free to ask, I'd love to chat more with you.

  • Would you like to practice contemplative prayer with someone else? One place you can do that is spiritual direction - and I'm happy to sit with you or guide you to someone who would be able to sit with you.

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Aug 11, 2023

I am proud of my "slow living" journey to just realize I "have time" to read this. So glad I did because I had a similar experience this morning. I was struggling with what direction my quiet time would go in. I love to just drink my coffee staring out the window. This morning a mama deer and her 2 fawns ran into my neighbors yard. The one fawn was running like crazy. We do periodically see deer in the middle of a small town but never for this long. Several years ago during a particularly difficult time I believe God sent me deer to remind me that He loves me. I think of that every time I…

Aug 12, 2023
Replying to

What a gift for you! I can see the babies just frolicking right along. Isn't it so lovely to entertain the idea that there might be more than just our own finite word to pray and worship?

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