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October 2021

A Contemplative Exercise for October 2021

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 too. 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: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples (John 8.31)

To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; you may want to relax your way through your muscles or you may find it helpful to become aware of the sounds around you and then put them aside as you offer this time of prayer to God.

Say this introductory invitation to prayer, and 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: 

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.

The saying for this month from the Gospel of John, comes at a time when passions in Jerusalem were running high. It was festival time, and many people had gathered in Jerusalem, their attention focussed on worship in the temple and on catching up with family, friends and business acquaintances.

The scribes and Pharisees were on show as they listened to Jesus addressing the groups of people who followed him to see what he had to say. As Jesus tries to teach the people he is met with different reactions, notably scepticism and indignation from the Temple authority figures especially as Jesus describes himself as; “I am the light of the world”. Their reaction is to try to trip him up and humiliate him in front of any who might have wanted to take him seriously. Others show a superficial curiosity but could also be wanting to see a touch of drama – a little sensation to remember when they arrived home. Jesus is a diversion to be recalled but not taken seriously. And then there are some who show a genuine interest, who are drawn to his person and his ideas. It is to this group that Jesus directs his comments  and his teaching. This group are listening carefully because they realise that what they are hearing is important and possibly life changing. They don’t always understand completely but they are drawn to the person of Jesus and seem hungry to learn more. This group includes Jesus chosen disciples.

This is the point in the account where we hear this month’s saying: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8: 31-2). 

Those who followed still struggled to understand the freedom that Jesus promised. Some on the edge of commitment, still protested that as descendants of Abraham, they had been slaves to no one...

But Jesus promise is there for all those who would listen and try to open their hearts and minds to what he was trying to say, in effect, ‘If you follow my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth and that truth will mean freedom – a freedom from the power of sin, and all that separates you from God.’

So, in this first silence, we take ourselves back into the crowds following and listening to Jesus. We hear him speaking, and notice how his words were received, who welcomes them and who is suspicious. We are invited to notice how we participate in this scene; how do we receive Jesus’ words suggesting we too might experience freedom? And what kind of freedom might that be?

 We take this Saying into our minds, allowing the saying to speak to us: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. 

A time is now kept for silence of the mind – perhaps between 5 and 15 minutes.  The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or feel free to repeat the Saying.

The first silence ends with the words: Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word. 

Introduction to the second silence - a preparation for listening with the heart: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.

After watching and listening to Jesus teaching and challenging different groups of people to really listen to him, we come to the time to really notice our own feelings and observations.

When we thought about Jesus speaking to the crowds, were we one of the sceptical ones, looking for a miracle? Or one of those who were hungry for more from Jesus, desperate to understand more fully the freedom he was describing? Or maybe, you were one of the suspicious ones, who were ready to trip him up and humiliate him….

Hear again Jesus speaking this time, directly to you: If you continue in my word, you will truly be my disciples…

What does it mean to be in this group, expecting to draw closer to Jesus, believing his words and longing for that freedom that he promises, the freedom of heart and mind, no longer oppressed by sin and separated from God.

So, now we take this word into our hearts, as we allow Jesus’ words to speak in us, to let it touch us and let it work more deeply upon our lives.

A time is now kept for silence of the heart – perhaps between 5 and 15 minutes.

The second silence ends with the words: Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.


Introduction to the time of intercession – taking God’s word outwards into the world.

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.

As we come to our prayers, we bring to mind all who are long for freedom of heart and mind. Those who are weighed down with suffering of any kind whether that is sickness, poverty, hunger, as victims of war and all whose lives are being devastated by Climate Change – those who have suffered from wildfires, drought, high temperatures, flood and earthquake. And we pray for all who will take part in the coming conference on Climate Change.

We pray especially for any who we think may need to hear the word of Jesus spoken to them personally?

And we pray for anyone on our heart and mind who needs our prayers today.

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying. For example: ‘Alison and your family ... If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.

As we allow the word to speak through us we might direct Jesus’ word towards those people and situations where there is suffering, hurt and an absence of joy and where abiding in Christ would bring comfort.

Conclude this 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.


The Conclusion

Feel free to use the Fellowship Prayer (below) 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.