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Below are ways that you can meditate, contemplate, and pray in your ZOE group!  HERE is a listing of contemplative practice videos, etc, that we've collected.  In addition:

Center for Action and Contemplation - Father Richard Rohr:  sign up for his daily meditations, which can guide your contemplative practice, rooted in the ancient monastic traditions of Christianity.  Wonderful "fodder" for group practice and discussion.  Get your student fellowship members to sign up to receive them!

Use these VIDEOS by Rev Jim Burklo, co-founder of ZOE, to learn about mindfulness practice and Christian contemplative practices.

Preparing for Contemplative Prayer


Oral prayer is a conversation among Zoe students, clarifying what is on our hearts and minds right now, to prepare ourselves for silent contemplative prayer that draws us into spiritual communion with the agape love who is God.


The prayer leader speaks:  


“Let us prepare for contemplative prayer by sharing with each other what is on our hearts and minds.  If you are moved to speak in each section of our prayer sharing, please share what is true for you as briefly as you can.  If you are moved to remain silent, bring your silence into the presence of God with us.” 


“Let us start with sharing briefly what is on our hearts and minds about our personal lives and the lives of those closest to us.”  (Leader sets a time limit)


“Let us continue by sharing what is on our hearts and minds about what is happening on our campus.”  (Leader sets a time limit)


“Let us continue by sharing what is on our hearts and minds about the wider world.”  (Leader sets a time limit)


“Let us bring all that we have shared with each other into contemplative prayer.  In silence, let us be mindful of our inner experiences: observing our feelings, ideas, worries, joys, urges, physical sensations –observing and then letting go of our judgments and opinions about them, attending to them with the compassion of Christ – until we know and feel that Divine Love is at our center.”  (Leader sets a time limit)


At the set time, the leader says “Amen” and then the song leader leads the group in singing a repetitive chant.   

BEADS for Christian Contemplation


Beads are an ancient, multi-faith way to enhance the experience of prayer and meditation.

The word “bede” in Anglo-Saxon means “prayer”.  Beads have been used for prayer for millennia, all over the world, in many religious traditions.

The Hindu mala is a necklace of 108 beads.  Each bead is fingered while repeating a mantra.  The Buddhists use mala beads in a similar fashion.

The Muslims may have copied the use of beads from the Hindus and Buddhists.  They have a rosary of 99 beads, each one marking one of the names/attributes of Allah – with a head bead for Allah.  An alternative form is 33 beads, used 3 times to complete the 99 names.  The Bahá'í faith uses a similar rosary.

The Catholic Christians may have copied the Muslims in creating rosary beads.  “Praying the rosary” involves a series of prayers marked by five “decades” of ten beads each, with a cross at the head of the necklace.

In your ZOE group, make your own prayer bead necklaces of any number of beads, with a "head" or larger bead on each one. 

Contemplative practice with beads:  hold the necklace in your hand.  Hold a bead next to the head bead in your fingers.  Get into a comfortable position where you'll stay alert.  Practice mindful Christian contemplation: observe, one at a time, each thought, sensation, emotion, or urge that arises - with compassion and releasing judgment about it.  As a new experience bubbles up into awareness, roll a bead in your fingers until that experience naturally dissipates.  As the next experience arises into your loving, curious, open-hearted and open-minded attention, move to the next bead and roll it with your fingers.  When you get to the head bead, hold it in your fingers and savor the source and center of your compassionate, agape attention itself – the Christ within you! ​

Studia Divina

ZOE integrates academic life into spiritual life.  How can you integrate your study, in any field, with your contemplative practice?


“Never in any case whatever is a genuine effort of the attention wasted. It always has its effect on the spiritual plane and in consequence on the lower one of the intelligence, for all spiritual light lightens the mind.”  So wrote the 20th century philosopher/theologian, Simone Weil in an essay entitled “Reflection on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God”.  


She believed that academic work cultivates attention, which translates into prayer.  Studying any subject, even if remote from the subject of spirituality, leads to a divine disposition toward humility and receptivity. 


God is love.  And love is open, non-judgmental, genuinely curious attention.  So if you are paying this kind of unconditional, compassionate attention to anybody or anything, you are communing with God.  You are doing God.  You are experiencing God.


This means that you can get to God by studying statistics, even if you are not particularly adept at the subject.  The careful attention you pay to it, the humble curiosity you direct toward the subject of your study, is by nature prayerful.  Sacred.  Divine.  You can get a “C” in statistics but be delivered into the presence of God by it nonetheless. 


Your soul can be served by your study.  And your study in turn can be enhanced by your awareness of its sacredness.  Worship and contemplative prayer with your fellow students in your Zoe group will entrain your ability to be deeply attentive in all other aspects of your life, including your academic pursuits. 


What matters most is love itself.  The love that is attention.  The love that is God.  And out of that love may flow an enhanced capacity for academic work. 


“Love your enemies,” said Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount.  And the Greek word in the Bible for “love”, in this passage, is “agape” – unconditional, purely attentive love.  Sometimes we hate the subjects of our studies.  Math or physics or biology or political science problems can become our enemies.  The Christ guides us to love them anyway.  Jesus doesn’t ask us to like our enemies.  He asks us to love them.  To sit with them, pay deep attention to them, and set aside our judgements about them, whether positive or negative.   Give your studies some good agape – especially in the subjects you find most challenging.


Here’s a practice you can do in your Zoe group, or by yourself.


Studia Divina  (Latin for “divine studies”)  is based on Lectio Divina (“divine reading”), an old Christian spiritual practice.  In Lectio Divina, a passage of scripture is read aloud a few times (lectio), followed by a period of meditation in which all assumptions or meanings about the reading are released (meditatio).  This is followed by a prescribed oral prayer (oratio), and the prayer is followed by contemplation (contemplatio) – in which the soul enters into union with the divine. 

In Studia Divina, use a study problem or focus as the reading.  It can be a challenging passage from a novel or a mysterious aspect of a poem, a thorny question from the study of history, or a math problem.  What problem do you admire – whether you have solved it or not?  What’s the most interesting “unknown” in your field of study?  The problem may or may not have a clear answer.  It can be a simple one:  “If the cost of a bat and a baseball combined is $1.10 and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, how much is the ball?”  (answer: $0.05)  Or it can be sublimely challenging:  “What is the ideal structure of a democracy?” 

Here’s a current example from the study of public health:

Lectio:  “What is the correct balance of health risk and risk to educational outcomes in determining response to infectious disease in public schools?” Repeat it slowly aloud, twice.

Meditatio:  Sit with this question, letting go of any preconceptions or opinions about it.  Don’t try to answer it.  Consider its many implications and connections to other questions and issues, its significance and complexity.  Admire it lovingly for ten minutes.

Oratio:  Say aloud: “May divine love grow in my heart, soul, and mind through my attention to this problem.”

Contemplatio:  In this period (10 minutes), release your attention to the problem, and pay attention to whatever arises.  It can be anything.  A thought, a reflection, an insight.  Or a physical sensation or an emotional experience.  Attend to each arising experience, one at a time, observing with compassion and acceptance, and then gently releasing to make way for the next, until you rest in awareness of attention itself.  The attention that is prayer.  The attention that is love.  The love that is God…

Lectio Divina

by Jeremy Steele, ZOAY

God is speaking. This ancient practice helps you hear.


Lectio Divina is built on the confidence that whenever you read the Bible, God is speaking to you. However, Lectio Divina approaches hearing God’s voice in a unique way. Rather than digging deep into the meaning of a specific passage or trying to understand the original cultural context of a selection, Lectio Divina focuses on the words themselves and uses them as a focus point to help center yourself on God’s voice. 

Lectio Divina treats the Bible the same way you would a small portion of the most tasteful dessert you’ve ever had. Instead of taking it all in one bite, you take it bit by bit and savor each taste. As you practice Lectio Divina, instead of taking it all in one bite, you will proceed slowly savoring each word. 

In Lectio Divina, there are four major movements. It begins with reading the text in a way you have likely never read it before. After selecting a passage in the Bible, you will begin to read it as slowly
as possible so that you can savor every word. After you have read 

the entire passage as slowly as possible, you begin again reading the passage slowly, word by word. You repeat this process over and over enjoying each new idea, each new perspective as it comes to your mind in this slow, repetitive reading. 

As you read it slowly, there will be some word or phrase that seems to be particularly notable. For some people, they experience not being able to move past a word and feel like they sort of get stuck in a place each time they read. Others talk about a word seeming to shimmer. As you read there will be a word that particularly catches your attention. This word is “shimmering” because God wants to use it to speak. You continue then with your shimmering word to the next movement. 

The second movement focuses on experiencing the word. This one can be especially difficult for those of us who have been taught how to quickly begin thinking about the implications of words and ideas. It is difficult because thinking about the implications of this word must be held off until the third movement. In the second, we simply repeat the word over and over and experience what that word does inside our hearts and minds. What emotions does it bring up? What thoughts are connected to it? What memories surround it? Repeat the word and allow the Holy Spirit to bring relevant connected thoughts and emotions to the front of your mind and heart. 

The third movement is time spent in prayer with God. Here it is important to both speak and listen. You might ask God why this word shimmered. You might ask why you feel the way you do when you meditate on the word or what action God is asking you to take as a result. The goal is to ask questions and wait for answers to come to your mind. This is the analyzing moment when you try to discover what it is that God is saying to you. 

Finally, you use the word you’ve chosen as your sacred word for Centering Prayer and use it to enter into a time of contemplative prayer. The goal here is to let go of all of the active prayer and rest in God. 


Practicing Lectio Divina should take while. It is best to try and devote even amounts of time to each movement so that you don’t rush past one for another. Most people need help with the time portion, so try setting a timer on your phone or something like that your first several attempts. This may be the mystical practice that, in my experience, seems to get the most immediate positive response from people. It seems to make the Bible come alive in completely new ways and is active enough to not seem too foreign to the western mind. For your first try, I think you can have an amazing first experience by devoting five minutes to each movement. Let’s get started! 


1. Sit. Sit in a relaxed posture with your eyes closed enough to not be distracted by what you see, but not closed so far that you are unable to read. 

2. Read. Open the Bible and read your passage slowly and repeatedly savoring each word. While you read, look for a word or phrase that attracts your attention and “shimmers.” 

3. Consider. Now begin to consider your word or phrase. Ask: What emotions does it bring up? What other memories are associated with it? Be careful not to begin analyzing the implication of all these things, but merely experience them as you repeat your word or phrase. 

4. Ask. Now it’s time to have a conversation with God. Ask: Why this word? What is God trying to tell me? 

5. Pray/Rest. Finish by taking the word up as your sacred word and entering into a time of contemplative prayer. Clear your mind and rest in the presence of God. 

14 Questions of Jesus - for Lent

For Lent, engage students with 14 of the questions that Jesus asked his followers during his ministry.  Post  14 "stations" (similar to the 14 Stations of the Cross) at which students can take slips of paper and write responses to the questions, and put them in boxes at each station, as they choose.  These slips can then be displayed during Holy Week.

This selection of questions of Jesus is intended for open-ended, contemplative, prayerful personal meditation and group conversation.  Here, the questions are presented out of their contexts in the gospel narratives.  Those contexts are well-worthy of study and consideration.  But here, you can fit Jesus' questions into your own contexts, imagining how they address or challenge your own life-experience.  The questions are presented here as "koans" - spiritual "monkey-wrenches" -  tossed into our minds to break us loose from habits that get in the way of Divine Love. There are no right answers.  It may be enough to contemplate the questions rather than trying to answer them!  How can these questions bring us closer to the true Divine Nature within, and draw us closer in loving community?  After each question, prompts are offered for reflection and response.


14 Questions of Jesus:

  1. And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? (Matt 6:27-28) (What are your worries?  When and how do they arise?  How do they manifest physically?) 

    2. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Matt 7:2) (What are the logs in your own eyes?  What prejudices and assumptions and judgments get in the way of your ability to see things as they are, on their own terms?  How clearly can you see these "logs"?)

    3.  Why are you afraid, you of little faith? (Matt 8:26)  (What are you afraid of?  What is the root of your fear?  When/how do these fears arise?  How do these fears affect your life and the lives of others?  How do your fears manifest in your body?)

    4.  Do you believe that I am able to do this? (Matt 9:28)  (What do you need to do?  Do you believe you can do it?  Examine your beliefs about what you can and cannot accomplish.)

    5.  How many loaves have you? (Matt 15:34) (What do you have to work with - what are your resources to deal with the challenges before you?  Are they sufficient? Can you "make do"?)

    6.  But who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15) - What is your name? (Luke 8:30) (Who are you, in your essence?  If you lovingly observe yourself in prayerful, mindful contemplation, who/what is it that is doing the observing?)

    7.  What do you want me to do for you? (Matt 20:32)  (What kind of help do you need?  Are you willing to ask for it?)

    8.  So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? (Matt 26:40) - Simon, are you asleep? (Mark 14:37) - Why are you sleeping? (Luke 22:46) (In what ways are you "asleep", spiritually/emotionally/mentally/socially/politically?  What would help you come "awake"?)

    9.  My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me? (Matt 27:46)  (Is there any part of you in despair?  What is the root of that despair?)

    10.  Can you see anything? (Mark 8:23)  (In what ways are you blind - unable to "see" important aspects of life within and around you?)

    11.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? (Luke 22:27)  (In what ways are you a servant, and in what ways are you a master?  What is it like to be in each of those roles?  Are there situations in which those roles should be reversed for you? How can you be more of service to your community, country, and the world?)

    12. What are you discussing as you walk along? (Luke 24:17)  (What chatter is going on in your mind right now?  What are you thinking right now?  What kind of inner dialogue is going on in you right now?)

    13.  What are you looking for? (John 1:38)  (What do you want?  Is anything missing in your life?  What do you want to do about it?  What are you willing to do about it?)

    14.  Do you want to be made well? (John 5:6)  (In what ways are you not well?  What is your level of desire to become well?  What difference might it make if your desire was stronger?)

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