April 2020

 A contemplative exercise for April

      Saying for the month                            

     “I will go before you…”     Matthew 26.32    (AKJV)

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 go before you…”  

These words are recorded twice in Matthew’s Gospel, firstly in chapter 26 on the eve of his passion. Following his last supper with them, when he instructed his followers to remember him in the breaking of bread and drinking of wine, they go to the Mount of Olives. Jesus speaks to his disciples, telling them of events which are to come. He begins by warning them that they will desert him (hotly denied by Peter, of course) but reassures them that “after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee”. At the end of the Gospel, there are similar words (28.10) when Jesus appears briefly to the women who have discovered the empty tomb – ‘go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me’.

Then in Mark 14.28, Jesus tells the disciples ‘I will go before you to Galilee’ and the  Gospel ends enigmatically with these same words – a young man, dressed in white, greets the women at the empty tomb and says they are to tell the disciples that ‘Jesus is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him’.

Jesus has clearly told his followers that he will not be found in Jerusalem - the centre of the religious establishment, nor at the site of the temple - the religious capital. Rather, the risen Christ is to be discovered in remote Galilee, the place on the periphery, the margins.

It is there that Jesus began his ministry: in Matthew 4.12-16 we read that after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus withdraws to ‘the land of Zebulon, the land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles’. Exactly why it is so termed is unclear but it was a place of mixed Jewish and Gentile populations, a frontier region exposed to nearby foreign countries and ethnicities. Galileans were mocked for their rough local accent, jeered at and scapegoated. It was a place of oppression, poverty and need, crippled by Roman and Temple taxes, and it became a base for resistance to Rome and for revolutionary activists.

So Jesus is telling the disciples that he will be found among the poor and the broken, in places of oppression and protest, with the rejected and the stigmatized. They are not to look for him in the corridors of power or in the religious centres. When we read Matthew 25.34-36, 40 we realise that Christ has clearly laid out for his disciples the place where they are to live and work and act out their faith – the place where his Kingdom is to be found.

So first we listen to these words with our minds –realising that the background to them is Jesus’ concern that his disciples will be able to seek him out, even when he is no longer with them in person. As we approach the events of Holy Week and Good Friday, they are held out as encouragement for the difficult times that are ahead.

 “I will go before you”

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”


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

“I will go before you”

Jesus wants us to follow him, through all the trials and tribulations and the joys that life presents us with. Like the disciples, we go through hard times, as at present  – times when we perhaps feel that Jesus is elsewhere, just as the disciples must have felt at the time of his death and even afterwards, when the women brought news of the empty tomb.

In his book ‘Beyond the Edge’*, Andrew Mayes examines the journeys that Jesus undertook in the years of his ministry – travels to risky places, to places of discovery. He suggests three steps that we might make in our lives as we seek to follow him on this particular venture to the liminal place that is Galilee, the threshold between the Jesus of the Gospels and the post-resurrection Christ.

First we must move to the edge – of the Church, alert and responsive to all but especially those beginning their spiritual journey; and of society, where the lost and needy are found. The Church is in uncharted territory at this time and there are huge challenges if we are to be effective in proclaiming the love of God to the many who are searching for answers to questions of every kind.

Then we must turn from ourselves to our neighbour – positioning ourselves as Christ did, amongst exploited and alienated persons. No matter how difficult our own situation, there are many who are in greater need.

And lastly, we are to look for our Lord, the risen Christ, in unexpected places. Just as he appeared to Saul on the Damascus road, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to 500 people at one time (1 Cor 15.6), he can and will surprise us if we are alert and open to recognising and receiving him.

Galilee is a place on the edge of things - and Christ waits to meet us in such places. Even now, when we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, we must respond to his words “Follow me” (John 21.22) and do so with an intrepid heart as he goes before us. We are not alone: “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.20)  

So now we listen to Jesus as he leads us on to the place where we will encounter him, taking these words into our hearts as he says

“I will go before you”

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”


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

“I will go before you”

These words can be wonderfully used in intercession for others as we go forward into uncertain territory following the outbreak of the corona virus. There are many at this time who are facing a future troubled by uncertainty and anxiety; who have difficult decisions to make and are feeling that they are unsupported and alone; for whom the way ahead is obscured.

There are people in so many parts of the world who are in need of this prayer, in places beyond our sphere of influence and even our knowledge. We pray for them, and for those agencies who are in a position to support them.

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.


This month’s exercise was contributed by CO


*These thoughts have been informed by Andrew Mayes’ book ‘Beyond the Edge - Spiritual Transitions for Adventurous Souls’ (published by SPCK). This book considers the journeys of Jesus in the Gospel accounts, and where they might lead those who wish to follow him in discipleship.