Man praying
Slowing Down with Prayerful Contemplation

Engage Art | Faith | September 2, 2021

Today we at Engage Art want to share a spiritual habit—contemplation—that can help you create moments of stillness to connect with God.


Around here, we tend to sprint through the week. Day after day, we make coffee and go to work and do the dishes and squeeze in a few minutes to engage art somewhere along the line. The weeks pass in a flash. In the blink of an eye, another birthday arrives, the nights grow shorter, children are already going back to school. As if that isn’t enough, a glance at the news or a chat with the neighbors brings its own avalanche of noise and activity.

Loud, an Honorable Mention in the  2020 Engage Art Contest, by Canadian singer-songwriter Esther Acheampong

Sometimes life becomes so full that stillness feels awkward, clumsy, uncomfortable. Even when we collapse on the couch to “rest,” our minds stay busy. We message friends, scroll social media, and stream a TV show all at the same time.

In the unending cycle of making, going, doing, squeezing, does it ever feel like the hamster wheel is spinning faster and faster? When we keep relentlessly running faster and working harder—without stillness, without taking time to engage Scripture—it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture. Weeks might slip by before we realize that we’ve fallen out of touch with God. 

Another Way

Herein lies a spiritual battle between the noise and urgency around us and the peace that God offers instead. God invites us to put down the work that fills our hands and overflows our calendars, and make the radical choice to rest. Consider this wisdom:

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

(Ecclesiastes 4:6)
"My Shield," a Semi-Finalist in the 2020 Engage Art Contest, by Jenae Bell, a self-taught artist from Dominica

The practice of Christian meditation and contemplation offers a way to slow down, take a breath, and recenter yourself in the presence of God. 

Quietness offers a refreshing alternative to worry, anxiety, stress, or exhaustion. What comes to mind when you imagine “a handful of quietness?” Do you think of quietness as something you can pick up and carry with you? 

Scripture says: Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) The spiritual practice of contemplation draws us, meditatively, into a space of mental and spiritual stillness.

Meditation & Contemplation

Christian meditation is deliberately focusing the mind on a short Scripture or an idea like “the love and forgiveness of God.”  You muse, consider, and ponder this idea at length. 

Why spend a long time on a short idea? Cows have four stomachs. They don’t rush their meals! Instead, they chew on the same bit of food again and again until it is thoroughly digested. In the same way, Christian meditation involves ruminating at length so you might digest the meaning more fully. Your deeper understanding is likely to come more as a feeling than a set of bullet points, so keep an open mind.

"Quiescence" by Christen Mattix. This artwork is a selection from our Art Cards.

Once you’ve been thinking and focusing for some time, you may naturally move into Christian contemplation, where you silently acknowledge the presence of God, inviting the feeling of your relationship with God to envelop you. Perhaps a word or phrase from your meditation will run on repeat in your mind, or the sense of your deeper understanding will remain with you. This is sometimes called “silent prayer” or “listening for God.” You might stare into space or gaze out the window as the connection with God moves beyond a space defined by journals and study and words. 

Consider this Scripture: 

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Try It Out

Have you tried sitting with God without words or structure? It can be wonderful.

If you want to try a prayer of meditation and contemplation, you can follow these steps.

1: Prepare your space.

Choose a Scripture, thought, or aspect of God as a meditation focus. Read it before you begin. Have it nearby, in case you want to refer to it.

Sit with God in a quiet place—curl up in a favorite chair, stretch out in the shade of a tree, even consider bringing a couple of pillows into your closet. Think about Him and His holiness, and invite Him into your heart and mind.

2: Prepare your heart.

Consider: Is anything blocking your connection with God? Confess and repent from sin (that which disconnects you from God). Ask God to show you where you are holding on to sin, acknowledge it, and turn away from it.

Praise God for His role in your life and for the opportunities and blessings He has provided.

You might say the Lord’s Prayer, praying as Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13.

3: Now, let the words fall away.

Begin to ponder the Scripture or thought of your meditation focus. Ask God to help you understand it better, but remember—mull it over, don’t try to analyze right now. 

At times, you may cross over into contemplation, where you are listening and sitting in God’s presence and not focusing. This is natural. You may move back and forth between the meditation and contemplation several times during this prayer session.

If you find your mind wandering back to the hamster wheel—which is common, especially if this is a new practice—gently bring your thoughts back to the Scripture you are contemplating.

You can remain in this space for as long as you like. Some may stay here for 2 minutes, while others will rest here for an hour. Allow yourself to relax into God’s presence, and whatever you are reading and pondering—allow its truth and beauty to percolate deeper within you.

Headspace, a Semi-Finalist in the 2020 Engage Art Contest, by Julian Rucker

Next Steps

After a time of meditation and contemplation, you might find the Spirit inviting you in any number of directions. 

Perhaps you are drawn into a time of creativity. Times of meditation and contemplation often inspire artists to paint, compose, and generally express with their hands something that they cannot articulate any other way.

Perhaps you want to move outdoors and take a walk with God. You can continue to pray while you walk, prayerfully contemplating the details that draw your attention—a garden, a bird, a house—in light of the Scripture on which you’ve been meditating. 

Maybe you want to spend some time in Bible study, intercession,  journaling, or worship, communing with God in different ways. 

Perhaps you simply have to jump right back into making, going, doing, squeezing. Often this is the only path available! 
Whichever direction you go, we hope your day is transformed by that “handful of quietness” that you carry with you. And whatever your day holds, we hope you find a few minutes to Engage Culture, Engage Scripture, and Engage Art.

There are many different aspects of prayer, and each one serves a different purpose, but they are all about connecting to God. This blog post draws on several app posts. If you are looking to deepen your prayer practice or try new styles of prayer this fall, check out the prayer track in the Engage Art App. We offer inspiration with Scripture passages, reflection questions, and different practices to try, all paired with original artwork created by members of the Engage Art Tribe. 

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