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May 2018


A Contemplative Exercise for May

 

The following is a possible framework for the Witnessing of the Word. It can be personalised, or altered: its purpose is to serve as an example of how this Saying might be used primarily in the context of a Prayer Group, but it may be used by individuals if so wished. It is not intended to be definitive.

 

In the context of a group: the periods of silence should be appropriate for your group - probably not less than 5 minutes, or more than 15 minutes.

 

Saying for the month

 

Listen, so that you may live”   Isaiah 55.3 (NRSV)

 

To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; become aware of the sounds around you and put them aside; offer this time of prayer to God.

 

Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:

 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest"   Matthew 11.28 

 

 

Introduction to the first silence - a preparation for listening with the mind:

 

Listen, so that you may live

 

The word of God came to the people through the voice a prophet at the time of their return out of captivity. It was perhaps the only way at the time to get such a vast number of His people to listen.

 

So Isaiah spoke to the Israelites of the covenant of grace, and described the way forward for them when, through the prophet, God declared    

“Listen, so that you may live” 

 

The people were in need of a direction for the spiritual way home, and needed guidance as to how to ‘turn around’ towards the grace of God. 

 

In our Western culture most of us are not consciously aware of being in exile; neither are are we as inclined to keep our ear out for prophets.  This highlights the importance for us to have a deep and continuous attitude of listening in our daily lives. We can do this by welcoming and developing an attitude of stillness and openness around us as we go through the day, and outside our prayer time.

 

Clearly we think the ultimate way to listen well to the deeper meaning of God’s teaching is through the scripture; and through our contemplative prayer with the Sayings; and through the practice of Lectio Divina.

 

However, these are far from the only ways.

 

In our daily lives within today’s world, God also speaks to us through circumstances, and situations that arise; and through the people around us… “Christ in mouths of friends and strangers”. And importantly too, through the natural world.  Listen.   Listen.    

The Book of Common Prayer points us to ‘read, mark and inwardly digest.’

So let us now empty ourselves of all thought, to receive this word in stillness into our minds. 

Listen, so that you may live

 

A time is now kept for silence of the mind - between 5 and 15 minutes

 

The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

 

 Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

 

Listen, so that you may live

 

 

 

 

Introduction to the second silence - a preparation for listening with the heart:

 

Listen, so that you may live

 

In our contemplative prayer we are always advised to make ourselves empty and open so that the word can settle in an uncluttered landscape within us.

Somewhere in this uncluttered landscape lies the heart of us. That heart that was created in us at the beginning. It has always been part of us.

 

The priest and poet Malcolm Guite, speaks of ‘tasting the Word’ with the ‘palate of the heart’. And St Benedict refers to listening to the word of God with the ‘ears of the heart’. Both Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen talk of listening to God ‘through all things in nature’.

All this is not only for holy scholars, saints and poets…..this is a way for us ordinary folk as well.

 

Jesus pointed us in this way…. ‘Consider the lilies how they grow…’ Luke 12.27

It is often necessary for us to become exposed again and again to the newness and challenge of God’s word to us - whether it comes to us through the natural world or unexpectedly through the voice of a stranger, or through a change of circumstances….. just a few examples.

     

In paying deep attention in our daily lives we are practising another way of listening to God, through our hearts.

Listen, so that you may live

 

A time is now kept for silence of the heart - between 5 and 15 minutes

 

 

Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or repeat the Saying:

 

 Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

 

Listen, so that you may live

 

 

Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God’s Word outwards.

 

 “Listen, so that you may live

 

Now, as we come to the time when we turn outwards towards the rest of the world, we can engage our wills to channel our prayer of intercession so that throughout the world all may grow too in the practice of listening.

And that we may all continue to grow in our understanding of it, so that it may resound in the lives of all people…… and that we may all grow in our practice of it.

 

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying. For example:

 

‘All you leaders of the nations of the world ……    Listen, so that you may live   ’

 

 

Conclude the time of intercession with words of thanksgiving: 

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us

to those for whom we pray.

 

Use the Fellowship Prayer or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer.

 

Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do. Amen

 

 You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.  

 

This month's exercise was contributed by CM