The Four Stages of Contemplative Prayer

In his Christian Meditation, James Finley outlines the four stages of contemplative prayer: spiritual reading (or lectio divina), discursive meditation, prayer, and contemplation.

Spiritual reading, itself an act of faith, is a prayerful reading of Scripture or some other spiritual text which inspires us or guides us in our search for God.

This, then, leads to discursive meditation, in which we are prayerfully thinking about the things of God and filling our imagination with images that inspire and guide us in our spiritual journey.

Spiritual reading and discursive meditation awaken our desire for God, which we express in prayer. Here we tell God that we long to be one with him.

In contemplation our heart receives the gift of divine awareness. Finley writes:

In this mystical realization of oneness with God we are liberated from our tendencies to derive our security and identity from anything less than God. In specifically Christian terms, we enter the mind of Christ, who realized oneness with God to be the reality of himself and of everyone and everything around him.”

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