January 2018

A Contemplative Exercise for January 2018


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


Isaiah 45 v 2  “ I will go before you and make the crooked places straight ” (MEV)



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:


This month’s Saying, like December’s, comes from Isaiah 45. This chapter continues the themes of Israel as God’s servant, the object of his love, and also the promises that God makes concerning the future of his people. Spoken in the first instance to Cyrus, they contain the promise of change, of new beginnings. They are echoed in the proclamation of John the Baptist (John 1.23) which we heard during the Advent season. Isaiah has a special skill in simultaneously looking back to the past and forward to the future, something which we are reminded of when we come across quotations from his writing in the New Testament.


Now as we embark upon a New Year, we too turn our minds to the future, as did the people of Israel when they began to contemplate the possibility of a return from exile to their home land - the return to Jerusalem and even the rebuilding of the temple. It is right to remember the past – there is much we can learn from our experiences and especially from our mistakes; but we can also turn around and look forward with hope and confidence to the possibility of renewal. And God is there, encouraging us, going before us, making progress possible.


So, as always, we begin our contemplative prayer with a time of silence of the mind. We listen to these words, repeating the Saying as we prepare to allow the Holy Spirit free rein: listening as intently as we can, unfettered by distractions. Just as we prune tired and dead wood from our shrubs and roses at this time of year, we aim to cut out worries and concerns, pare back all but the living wood in preparation for fresh new growth.


“ I will go before you and make the crooked places straight ”


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 go before you and make the crooked places straight ”




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


Over the Christmas season we become especially aware of the presence of God with us on earth. We think once again about the mystery of the Incarnation, of the coming of the Word into the maelstrom of our human lives, of God becoming like us so that we might become like Him. And now it is time to embark on the journey towards that aim: God is leading us towards him, going before us to the place where he wants us to be, with him.


There are difficult times, wilderness places, crooked and awkward and rough where we will stumble and trip and even fall. But we keep our eyes on him and he is always before us, his hands ready to catch us or to pick us up if we really take a tumble. It may be that we lose sight of him – an obstacle rises up and obscures our view; a bend in the way hides him from us momentarily. But we plod on, and discover that he is nevertheless still with us, surely and steadily and comprehensively as we put one foot in front of the other.


In the second part of our time we try and go deeper into our journey with these words, letting them enter into our hearts. Having tried to put away all the distractions of our minds, we are ready to be quiet right at the centre of our being. We are in a listening stillness, our spirit is on tiptoe and alert. Our gaze is a gaze of the heart as we allow ourselves to behold our God. We try to ‘float like a feather on the breath of God’, drawn along, following him as he goes before us….


“ I will go before you and make the crooked places straight ”


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 go before you and make the crooked places straight ”



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


“ I will go before you and make the crooked places straight ”


With this word in mind we can now bring the meaning alive not only for ourselves, but also most importantly for the lives of others, in our intercession.

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       ……     

“ I will go before you and make the crooked places straight ”



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 CO