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November 2021

A Contemplative Exercise for November 2021

Saying for the month: “Cling to me for protection… make peace with me.”  Isaiah 27:5 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:

“Cling to me for protection… make peace with me.”

In this reading from the 8th century B.C., the Israelites were being offered a choice between putting their trust in the King of Assyria or putting their trust in the Lord, I AM. Isaiah is predicting imminent judgement for the people of Judah and Jerusalem but this will be followed by eventual restoration. The people are being challenged to love God with all their hearts and minds, to trust the Lord absolutely. The translation from the Message Bible reads: ‘Let that vine cling to me for safety, let it find a good and whole life with me… and fill the world with its fruit.’ The invitation is to trust God, to cling as a child would cling to a beloved parent for safety and protection, and we are given the promise that in return for the trust we place in God we will receive all that is good, a rich and wonderful fruitfulness.

This call to cling to God for protection resonates with the verse from Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3;5-6.

Understanding alone will never bring us peace. As humans, we have a voracious appetite for trying to figure things out in order to gain a sense of mastery over our lives. But as soon as we deal with one problem, another arises and again our minds are busy trying to sort it out, trying to gain control over our lives. Instead of trusting our own understanding, we are asked to trust God, to trust in I Am.

The wisest person, Solomon, could never think his way through to Peace. His vast understanding resulted in feelings of futility rather than fulfilment.

The call to cling to God is evocative of the mothering image of God portrayed in Hosea 11:3-4 ‘Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I who took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.’

God is always with us. We are always in relationship with God. We, our bodies, are the temple of the Lord. We simply cannot ‘be’ if God is not with us. It is not that God cuts us off if we ignore the relationship but that we cut ourselves off. Hence the call to God’s people by Isaiah almost three thousand years ago and to us today, ‘Cling to me for protection… make peace with me.’ The imprint of the Trinity is in every one of us, ready and waiting to give us strength if we will but cling, to give us the protection we need, ready and waiting to give us peace if we are prepared to receive it: ‘The strength of peace, the peace of strength.’

The Trinity dwells in us in the depth of our being. When we feel flustered and frazzled with life, we need to remember that we are, after all, only human. The swirl of events going on around us will sometimes be overwhelming. Rather than condemning ourselves for not being good enough, for not being able to rise above it all, we need to heed the call from Isaiah: ‘Cling to me for protection… make peace with me.’ When we are at peace with God, with I Am, we are at peace with all things.

And so we bring the Word to our mind.

 “Cling to me for protection… make peace with me.”

Allow the words to flow slowly through your mind...

“Cling to me for protection… make peace with me.”

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.

 “Cling to me for protection... make peace with me.”

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

 “Cling to me for protection... make peace with me.”

Now we bring the Word deeper, into our heart.  When we speak of the heart in this context, we are not referring to our feelings. Feelings constantly change like the weather. Our heart in this context is a stable place, like a cave that protects us from the weather. It is the place of wisdom, of deep intuition, the place of discernment, the place of truth. We bring the Word to our heart and in doing so we consent to the presence of God in this deep place, we consent to I Am being active in us, bringing healing and bringing peace.

This call to peace, to ‘… make peace with me’, is echoed in the words of Jesus in John 14:27:’ Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.’ (Jerusalem Bible).

As we cling to God we are making peace with I Am as naturally as breathing. When we actively cling to divine presence, consenting to I Am being present and active within us, transformation happens. It may be slow but when we are faithful to our time of prayer, the transformation within will happen. There is a hollow place in everyone that longs for God and that longs for peace. Clinging to God means bringing all our feelings, even the most difficult ones we wish we didn’t have, into our awareness and into our prayer. Fear, anxiety, hate, desire for revenge, guilt, remorse, jealousy, envy, rage: so many tormenting feelings that are spoken of with honesty in the psalms. These feelings are destructive to our sense of peace. Usually, we deny or suppress these feelings but they are all held in the storehouse of the body and can be triggered by events in our lives. We carry the wounds of a lifetime. When we cling to I Am, we will be healed. His peace will flow through us. We will be carried across the raging floods and through the fire: we will overcome. God did not say: you will not be troubled, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted; but he said: you will not be overcome.

When we cling to I Am, we are clinging to Love, the love of God revealed to us in Christ.

The peace of Christ is not an elusive goal, hidden at the centre of some complicated maze. We are always enveloped in the peace of God. Peace is inherent in the presence of I Am. As we look to I Am, as we cling, we gain awareness of this precious peace.

Quiet your heart in the presence of I Am. Breathe deeply. Receive the resurrection blessing: peace be with you.’ 

“Cling to me for protection... make peace with me.”

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.

“Cling to me for protection... make peace with me.”

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

Cling to me for protection... make peace with me.”

We have listened to and received the Word of God spoken to us through scripture. Now in the third part of our time of prayer, we speak the Word to those for whom we wish to pray and indeed for the whole world.

We hold the person or people or situation before God and speak the Word. It is the opposite of what most of us are used to in church where we address God and ask for things. Here we are surrendering everything to God in trust. Cling to me for protection… make peace with me.

Say the name of a person or a group of people or name a situation, 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 boundless generosity, whether received or 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.