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August 2019


A Contemplative Exercise for August

 

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

“When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”         Jeremiah 29.13  (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:

 “When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

The Israelites found themselves in exile. They were taken to Babylon, after the fall of Jerusalem in 597BC.  Jeremiah walked in the streets of the city wearing a wooden yoke, signifying his acceptance and submission to Babylon. Only by subservience would they escape destruction. His was not a popular message and met with a head on clash with the false prophets. Hananiah flatly contradicts Jeremiah and told the people what they wanted to hear, that they would be in exile for only two years.

Jeremiah’s word is that it will be a much longer period of 70 years, urging them to settle down and prepare for a long exile. They would need to build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce, marry and have children. They would need to make themselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare. They are even to pray for Babylon’s welfare, ‘for in its welfare you will find your own welfare. I have future plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future and a hope.’ And then in the text we read

“When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with your whole heart.”

The exile was the crucible of Israel’s faith. They were hundreds of miles from their homeland, it was an alien place and culture, yet this is the place where God is calling them to seek and search for him there in Babylon, in exile. This is a very helpful Biblical example and paradigm for us and especially faith communities: to seek God exactly where they are and not to wish they were somewhere else or in another situation. This was the reality of the exile and for us in today’s world, wherever God has placed or even pushed us and in whatever faith community we find ourselves.

 “When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

Allow the words to flow slowly through your mind …

“When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

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.

“When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

 

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

“When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

All of us are given times of exile. Israel’s experience was a violent and extreme form of what all of us experience from time to time. The inner experiences of exile from the time we were born into this world, when we left the womb to begin life. We were exiled from our homes at an early age to find ourselves in the demanding place of school and education. We were exiled from school and education to make our way in the uncertain and sometimes unsettling world of work. We were exiled from our parents and family when we left home to make our own way through the world.

The essential meaning of exile is that we find ourselves separated from home and all that is familiar. Exile is an experience of dislocation, with everything feeling out of joint and not fitting together.

This is why God is always calling us to seek and search for Him with all our heart.  “When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with your whole heart.”

This is achieved primarily through prayer and contemplative prayer offers the best opportunities to find God, because we are giving time and attention to concentrate and listen to God’s Word. We can do this on our own or in groups, wherever we are. We may sometimes feel we are in exile, perhaps in our work or home life, though illness or depression, in difficult personal relationships, in our confused and troubled world. In these ‘exile-like’ places and situations God is there calling us to seek and search for Him.

When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with your whole heart.”

And as sure as his people eventually returned from exile in Babylon to Israel and Jerusalem all those years ago, so we will return and keep returning from exile to our homeland which is always in God, in Christ.

 “When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

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.

“When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

 

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

“When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”

In this 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.

We hold the person or people 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.

 

Ever Loving God, 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, until you are all in all and we are complete. Amen

 

 You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.  

 

Some Watchwords for this month:  “search for me” …. “you will find me” …..  “seek me with all your heart”

 

                                                                This month's exercise was contributed by RF