Contemplation in the Year of Prayer

In this Year of Prayer, Sophia White from our Major Gifts and Philanthropy team gives us her tips for how to open ourselves to contemplation.


True silence is worth more than thousands of words, for it is in silence that we can listen and love. But to get to the right type of silence, first we need to listen to the right sounds. And so we start with a little theory, or some premises:

In writing to the Thessalonians, St Paul challenges them to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess 5:17) Given the many other things that daily life places before us, this can certainly be a challenge, especially if we consider prayer as being on our knees with our hands clasped. But St Thérèse of Lisieux gives a more expansive view of what prayer is:

“For me, prayer is a burst from my heart, it is a simple glance thrown towards Heaven, a cry of thanksgiving and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy.”

St Thomas Aquinas advises that “we cannot love what we do not know.” We get to know Christ through the Scriptures; I find spending time each day with the Mass readings to be very helpful. And for Catholics, the Catechism also provides a helpful starting point for our theological questions.

As for the journey of getting to know God, St John of the Cross says: “Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation.”


I have been largely influenced by Carmelite spirituality, which is less of a clear method (compared with Ignatian prayer or lectio divina) and more of a conversation between friends – with God and with the Carmelite saints.

Explore more types of prayer with our webinars taking place throughout the year.

Physical silence is an important part of contemplation. You should be silent and in a place with few distractions. To quiet the mind before entering into prayer, I spend a few moments focusing on deep breathing and any sensations in my body, then try to relax any tension in my breath.

I then either read a passage from Scripture or meditate upon a picture. You may choose to read a short poem, pray the Our Father or read something short from a spiritual work, for as long as it takes for the mind and heart to be drawn towards God. The time taken to ‘enter contemplation’ will vary from person to person and from one time of prayer to another.

It may then feel as if you are suspended for a while. You may find your mind wandering. When this happens, try to come back to an image, a word or whatever you were reading and allow yourself to be drawn back into contemplation again. St Teresa liked to come back to the Agony in the Garden or the Woman at the Well. I tend to repeat a word such as “peace”, “love” or “Christ”.

Remember that contemplation is more God’s work (that is, an act of grace) rather than anything particular that we do. We mostly just have to make ourselves available for this. I advise having a set amount of time for your prayer (20, 30 or 60 minutes tends to work well) and ending with a prayer such as the Our Father, the Magnificat, or a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Discover more resources to inspire your prayer life in the Year of Prayer.

The fruits of prayer

Contemplation is really placing yourself quite nakedly before God. Do not let any feelings of boredom or dryness put you off, or make you think you are doing something “wrong”. The real test of this form of prayer is the fruits of your life. Are you more peaceful? More joyful? Gentler? Kinder? More attentive to small moments of beauty each day? Are you more patient at dealing with setbacks? More diligent in your work?

Ultimately the fruits of true prayer, of true encounter with God, are that you are more conformed to Christ and thus more loving as a person.

It is a long journey and we can expect progress to be slow. But I have found that spending time throughout my day to be with God has been completely transformative. I feel that I lose my centre when I forget to do this.

Enjoy your journey!


Jesus, my love,
O how I love you.
Please help me to love you more!
[Time of silence]

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