Calendar of exercises
Archives
2017 2018 2019

March 2019


A Contemplative Exercise for March

 

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 make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope”        (Hosea 2.15 NIRV)

 

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 make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope”       

 Hosea was a sensitive and perceptive person. He was a prophet living in the 8th century – roughly 750-722 BC – and a resident of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Amos and Hosea were working at roughly the same time: both prophesied judgement on Israel, Amos seeing little hope for the future, whereas Hosea hoped for restoration after the predicted judgement.

In any case the whole nation was in decline, both morally and spiritually. If Amos concentrated on the moral questions, then Hosea put his emphasis on the spiritual.

Hosea was a messenger who warned the people – maybe his message was not heard in his lifetime. After his death, though, his friends and disciples may have put the book together from fragments of sermons, private writings and prophecies.

Hosea sees that the faith is being polluted mainly by influences from outside. There was a form of the religion of Baal worship that was undermining the faith of Israel in the one true God. God loves Israel, his chosen nation – we sense the pain that is in the heart of God as Israel undermines that faith in the one God by taking on many Gods of an alien nature.  God says in Hosea 4.10:  …they consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood…’

This relationship between God and his people is like a marriage – indeed there are repeated ‘covenants’ between God and his people. God for his part is always faithful – Israel is so often fickle and faithless. Part of the theme of the first three chapters tells the story of Hosea’s own marriages.

Earlier in this section – v 13 we hear of the judgement to come – then in v 14 we find that God is leading his people into the desert. Maybe this is to give the people a chance to think, to review what they are doing. It is a time of isolation for the people – they are having what we call a ‘dry patch’. They realise too that the faith has been prostituted, defiled. In that desert is a valley – ‘the valley of Achor’ – which is associated with the grisly account of the stoning of Achan which is told in Joshua 7.24-26. Although it is probably an actual valley near Jericho – what we are dealing with here is something profoundly spiritual - it means that it is the valley of ‘trouble’.

Here is a parable of God loving and caring for his unfaithful people.

The people are invited by God through Hosea to go into the desert to reflect: to reflect on their separation from God on the one hand, but on the other to realise God’s intense desire to draw them back to him again – to change them, to love them.  Although the people are fickle – God is forever faithful. Here lies their hope

God says to them: “I will make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope.”


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 make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope.”

 

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

I will make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope.”

A valley is surrounded by hills. If you are the bottom of the valley you can never see far as the views are limited. But most valleys lead somewhere. There must be a way out.

Through Hosea, God leads us into the desert, into a valley. It is there that we can leave our troubles, our anxieties, our pain, our dryness, our faithlessness, the way in which we are weighed down, in whatever way that may be. God seems to be inviting us to try simply to ‘let go’ and leave all that behind.

God loves us – that is the repeated message of Hosea. God wants to change our situation, to lead us out of the valley of trouble and to find a door of hope. It is as we go through that door of hope, that we find salvation and wholeness. In one sense it takes a lifetime, of course – but in another we can experience this as we ‘let go’ in this short time of contemplation.

It is as we listen to God speaking these words to us, that we discover a change taking place within us – it is a change towards salvation – a change towards wholeness. The trust that he is faithful and the trust that he loves us, lead us on towards this promise of a ‘door of hope’.

It is so easy to be overwhelmed by our troubles, buried in them and in despair because of them. It is as we listen to these words of God that we can begin to see things in perspective.

But there is a further stage for us. We remember that Jesus spoke of himself saying ‘I am the door’ (John 10.7-10). One of the interesting things about a door is that it has two sides to it – an inside and an outside. One side of the door to your house is outside and is therefore open to the dangers and uncertainties of the street - anything can happen there. The other side represents home and security, warmth and certainty. So, we are nervous about going through the door. But led by Jesus and hearing his voice ahead, makes the journey through the door that much more secure.

The good shepherd lays down his life for us, his sheep. Here lies our hope, our salvation, our wholeness.

So we seek to receive these words from God deep down within ourselves.

I will make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope.”


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 make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope.”

 

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

I will make the valley (of trouble) a door of hope.”

We have listened to and received these words from God in the context in which they were first spoken and deeply into the context of our own lives.  Now in the third part of our time, we seek to allow God to speak these same words through us to those for whom we wish to pray.

The situations will vary hugely.  What we do is to hold the person, the group, the church, a part of the world, before God and allow him to speak the words to them.  It is the opposite of what most of us are used to in church or in our own prayers where we address God and ask him for things.  Here we are allowing him to speak and to act in the lives of those we hold before him.

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

 

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 AE