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November 2018


“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” 


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

“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”                                                                                                                                                        Isaiah 49.15,16 (NIV)

 

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:

 

“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

 

The fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC tested Israel’s faith more profoundly than any other single event in the entire Old Testament period. But Isaiah, who clearly saw it would happen, never regarded it as calling God’s sovereignty into question.  Babylon like Assyria, had a part to play in the drama of history. But it was the Lord, not they, who wrote the script. And after they had made their exit, he would press other nations, too, into his service. 

 

Isaiah prophesies that the exiles will be released from their captivity in Babylon, which was brought about by their constant rebellion and faithlessness and their refusal to listen and to understand God’s message. The Israelites are complaining bitterly at their predicament; they feel they have been abandoned.  Their lament in verse 14 is brief but poignant: ‘the Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me’.  They have seen their beloved city in ruins.   But God, can no more forget his people than a mother can forget the baby at her breast.  Like a master architect he thinks about his plans for them day and night so much so that he engraves them on the palms of His hands. 

 

It was the custom in Babylon for the people to tattoo a picture of a god or a place on their hands as a permanent reminder for them, so the Israelites would have recalled this practice, and would relate to the image God was giving them.  Tattoos cannot be erased.

 

The exiles are the surviving remnant of Israel and are God’s servant: he has chosen them and will not abandon them but will release them from their captivity. They have paid a heavy price for their unfaithfulness and unwillingness to obey God.  He tells them, “I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”.

 

Let us now prepare for our first silence, the silence of the mind, and we listen to God speaking to us as He spoke to the Exiles so many years ago.  The Saying is just as relevant now as it was then.  He says to us: “I will not forget you.  See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”.

 

“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

 

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.

 

“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

 

 

 

 

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

 

“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

Tattooing is a habit that has become widely practiced today, particularly in the West. People have all kinds of phrases, names, and pictures that have some significance to them tattooed on different parts of their bodies.

But spiritually, God has engraved us for all time on the palms of his hands, like a perfect engraving on glass or stone or marble.  It brings to mind the beautiful hands of Jesus, pierced forever as he willingly laid down his life for us, a supreme act of unconditional and sacrificial love.  

 

Our hands are forever in use.    They are a powerful example of the continuous act of creation.  We use our hands for a multitude of purposes from creating works of art, music, and dance, and essential for our everyday tasks; housework, gardening and all the practical and mundane things that need to be done.   God is the master sculptor and the master potter. He created us from the beginning and continues to mould us as we open our hearts and lives more deeply to Him.   I have a small sculpture of the Lord holding a little child tenderly in the palm of His hand.  The hand and the child are one whole and perfect sculpture and they cannot be separated, just as nothing can separate us from the love of God.    

 

This month we remember all those millions of men and women who sacrificed their lives in war for their country, and our freedom. We can be comforted by the fact that each and every person who laid down their lives is indelibly engraved on the palms of our Lord’s hands. He will never forget them and the sacrifice they made.

 

Whatever obstacles, illness, bereavement, or sorrow we go through in life, we have the complete assurance that God will place His mighty hand upon us, and will strengthen us as He strengthened His people Israel. He will never forget us, because we are engraved on the palms of His hands and can never be erased.  Such is the extravagant nature of our Lord’s love for each one of His people. 

 

Now we have our second silence, the silence of the heart, as we allow this saying to sink down to the very depths of our being, the still centre, where we find God.   So we listen again to God saying “I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”.

 

“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

 

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.

 

“I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

 

 

 

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

 

 “I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands

 

In our time of intercession, we bring into the silence anyone for whom we wish to pray, enabling the Word to be spoken to them through us.

We may wish to pray for individuals who are in despair through grief, illness, personal trial or in other kind of need; any who are suffering and in need through persecution, conflict of ideologies or political belief, economic hardship; the lonely and the oppressed; places in the world where there is need of prayer for peace and reconciliation.

At this time, and especially in this year, we remember those who died in the Great Wars and in other armed conflicts.  

 

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

 

‘You my people, who are persecuted and afraid ……     “I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

 

 

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 MN