December 3, 2021
As I read today’s entry on my list of contemplative practices, I remembered that Compassion and Loving-Kindness are two foundational characteristics of God. Attributes of, or adjectives used in describing God. What an awesome thought, that this Tree of Contemplative Practices mentions us – you and me – with the same adjectives that describe God.
(Yes, I am going to geek out at this point, and talk about the Biblical text. I love sinking my teeth into the language and meaning behind the words.)
One of my wonderful go-to books on prayer, Prayer by Richard Foster, talks about compassion in prayer. We – you and I – are urged to show compassion in prayer, just as Jesus did. “Always! The Gospel writers frequently mention that Jesus was ‘filled with compassion’ for people.”  In both Hebrew and Aramaic, the root concept of compassion is inward parts. The King James Version calls this bowels of mercy. In other words, reaching down to the guts of a person! That is how much our contemplative practice is to reach down inside of us!
Psalm 103 mentions compassion as a Godly attribute. Verse 8: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” And, Foster equates God with a loving Father in verse 13: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” But, that is not the end of compassion, Not by a long shot!
Psalm 103 highlights loving-kindness, too. I just love the rich, multi-layered Hebrew word chesed, which is variously translated, but in this situation is loving-kindness. Verse 8 mentions the Godly hallmark of “abounding in love,” or, as I translate it word-for-word (with my poor Hebrew skills) “abundant-of loving-kindness.”
Wow! Double wow! These are two Godly adjectives that I consider so far above me, so far above my pay-grade, that I cannot wrap my head around them. Yet, Richard Foster says that we are to practice these Godly attributes on a regular basis as we pray healing prayers with each other. This is the same way I prayed with people as a hospital chaplain, for years. (By the way, you don’t have to be a “professional Christian” to do this kind of praying.)
We have moved beyond interior-gazing and are now going outside of ourselves. Yes, this is contemplation, and yes, this is action-oriented. A way to practice compassion and loving-kindness in the wild. In the world.
Join me in prayer, will you? Dear God, thank You for the two awesome adjectives about You and Your work in the world. About You and Your relationship with Your creation, Your creatures. (That includes us.) Help me – help us to step out, step forth, and practice compassion and loving-kindness. Help us use these gifts with love, with caring, with action. In the kind, compassionate name of Jesus we pray, amen.
Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.
 Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), 208.