Doing That Comes From Being: Beginning With Contemplative Prayer


Intercessory prayer finds its deepest roots and source of greatest power in worship and contemplative prayer, where the focus is on God alone—knowing him and experiencing his heart for us personally. For that reason, there’s great value in time spent in contemplative prayer, leading up to and during a day of focused prayer.

Perhaps you’re wondering what practical purpose there can be in this type of prayer. God often does one of two things from this place of just "being" in his presence.

  • First, he may reveal something about our being that he needs to heal or restore, in order for our doing to be more effective.

  • Other times he is able to reveal more about what he wants us to be doing in his mission to the world, because we are listening at a heightened level.  

Here’s an example of a time I recently witnessed this taking place. During a spiritual direction session with John (not his real name), a missionary preparing to go the field, we did an exercise similar to the one I’ll share with you below. The Lord took John to a solitary place, where it was only he and God. I asked him, "What do you think God is communicating to you there?"

John said that God was asking him, "Is it enough for you to be my child?" And his heart's immediate response was: Yes! Then he had a thought: My children haven't seen their grandfather in ten years! Maybe I should contact him, and see how he responds. Before I would have been fearful of any encounter with my abusive father! I asked John how he felt about such an encounter now, in this safe place. "Calm, no panic. Since I'm loved by my steadily loving Heavenly Father, I think I can risk interacting with my unpredictable earthly father."

I didn't know much about John's relationship with his father, or how important it might be for them to seek reconciliation before John headed off to the field. But God did.

From the place of love and safety found in contemplative prayer, God is able to lead us into places we would not choose to go on our own.

We don't usually "do being" very well—stopping the doing in a way that helps us really be with Jesus. So let’s take some time to intentionally practice. Let's visit a "day of prayer" that Jesus took his disciples on (see Luke 9:18a), and see what he might want to communicate to us of himself, and perhaps of his heart and will for you, for CRM, and for the world as well. We’ll make this visit through a contemplative prayer process.

Here are the steps to walk through this time of being with and listening to Jesus.

Contemplative Prayer Exercise

  • "Be Still and Know that I am God." Take a few minutes to turn the full attention of your heart towards God, without necessarily telling him or asking him anything.

  • Read Matthew 16:13-20 three times slowly.  

    • First, imagine the scene as vividly as you can, in order to enter the passage with your creative faculties and emotions, as well as with your mind.

    • The second and third times, read the passage from the perspective of a few different people in the scene, for example Peter, John, or even Jesus.

    • What did they think and feel at each point in the passage?

  • Now sit with Jesus for 10–20 minutes in silence in the context of this scene. Try to observe where the Spirit takes you, rather than think or analyze the passage. Notice:

    • What are your feelings towards Jesus?

    • What is Jesus communicating to you? (Note: it may not be in words.)

  • Then after the silent meditation is over, respond to the Lord in a verbal prayer: How would you like to respond to the Lord in light of his Spirit's work in your heart during this prayer?


Bill O'Byrne served on a CRM/Ethne team with his wife, Priscilla, in Saint Petersburg, Russia for 22 years, where they raised their four children. During that time Bill was involved in co-founding Imago Christi, the CRM/ChurchNEXT community of spiritual formation ministry, which he now leads from Denver, CO.