Exercise 16: Apaphatic Prayer with Variable Attributes

Background: The apaphatic tradition is rooted in the idea that there are ways that God is simply not knowable.  All the things that God is, these go beyond the words we use and the thoughts we can think.

More specifically, apaphatic meditation is a 3-step process: we begin with a statement, then we negate, then we negate the negation.  For example, we might think/ say “God is love.”  (statement)  Then “God is not Love.”  (negation)  then “God is not not-love.”

In a past meditation, we applied these steps to a series of pre-designed statement.  In today’s exercise, you will furnish your own sentences to apply this 3-step process to.

As with all of these spiritual exercises, it might be that there is a name for God that resonates more deeply with you than “God.”  Please feel free to substitute the word that makes you feel closest to the divine.

The Exercise

  1. Find something to write with.  (A phone, tablet, or laptop computer is just as useful as old fashioned paper-and-pencil.)
  2. Release, as best you can, your stresses and responsibilities.
  3. Complete the following phrase and write it down.  “God is ______.”
  4.  Continue that 4-6 more times.
  5. Read your list.
  6. Begin the apaphatic meditation by saying the top sentence on your list with your next exhale. (God is….)
  7.  Negate that sentence .  (God is not….)
  8.  Negate the negation (God is not not-…)
  9. Release, as best you can, all your thoughts for the next breath.
  10. With your next exhale, consider sentence number 2 on your list.  Then negate sentence number 2.  Then negate the negation.
  11. Work your way through the whole of your list.
  12. If you have time and inclination, go back through the list again, or at least the phrases which struck you the most deeply.
  13. When you are ready to be done, take three breaths to release this activity.
  14. Enjoy a time of wordless union with God.
  15. Think about the phrases and portions of this activity which struck you the most deeply.  Consider what new understandings of God you have.


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3 thoughts on “Exercise 16: Apaphatic Prayer with Variable Attributes

  1. Pingback: You Are Welcome Here. | The Faith-ing Project

    1. Jeff Post author

      It’s so invigorating to hear that it is helpful! Thanks for leaving the comment! January 20th we will be begin a free 3 week virtual gathering called ‘God Breathed.’ I am not, to be honest, anticipating doing much in the way of apaphatic practices but if you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity to connect with some journeyers, shoot me an email at otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com or use the contact button up top . (If you’ve got questions before we add you, connect in either of those ways too!)



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