March 2022

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.

Isaiah 46:4 ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save’ or ‘… I will save’ (RSV)

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, 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:

Isaiah 46.4 ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save.’

It is worth hearing, rather than just reading, the first few verses of Isaiah 46.  The rhythm of these opening verses both in Hebrew and in English indicates a special agitation and excitement.  It is brief, rapid and to the point.

The people of Israel are in exile in Babylon.  It is an awful time for them.  It seems as though they under a kind of house arrest and are made to pave the roads, make the bricks for the little temples of the Babylonian gods, and prepare the routes for the great religious processions.

The people began to lose faith and hope that this period of their history would ever come to an end.   But one called Isaiah, a poet and a prophet, has not lost hope.  He is so in tune with God that he is able to communicate the divine messages of rebuilding the nation, of restoring the people to their home in Jerusalem, rekindling their faith.

The processions of the gods in Babylon were, quite simply, a splendid spectacle.   The gods were carried in these processions – ‘Bel’ is the Babylonian form of Baal and was the title of Marduk.  Marduk was represented as a king standing on the back of a sea-monster.  He was led along the road from the Ishtar Gate, past the famous hanging gardens of Babylon, to the main Temple area in the centre of the city.

Nebo is Marduk’s son.  His image was also carried in procession.  We can imagine what it was like – the dancing, the excitement, the crowds.

But for Isaiah, however impressive it all looked, the rituals to him were meaningless.  They would do nothing at all for the thousands who came to take part.   At the end of the day, all they were left with was the great weight of the statues of the gods.

The prophet pours withering scorn on the gods – just as another poet had done in Psalm 115 –


Their idols are silver and gold

The work of human hands

They have mouths, but cannot speak,

Eyes have they, but cannot see;

They have ears but cannot hear;

Noses have they but cannot smell

They have hands but cannot feel. Feet have they but cannot walk

Not a whisper do they make from their throats

These idols, these gods, are so powerless, they have to be carried around by animals.   The effectiveness of the gods is bound up with the ineffectiveness of the images.  The worshippers of the gods are obliged to save their gods for the gods cannot save the worshippers.  They have become a heavy burden.

This passage is very profound and important in the Old Testament revelation.  God, who is the creator of everything, will never abandon that which he has made – and that which he loves.  The difference between the God of Israel and the gods of the Babylonians is not just intellectual – it is a matter of fact, of history.  When disaster happens the images of the gods do nothing.  The God of Israel in whom the people put their faith, when there is a disaster, carries them.  God is the God who carries and who is not a god who has to be carried.

In addition, he serves us rather than us serving him.

The final words of this section ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save’ emphasise afresh to the people who are suffering so much that God will bear them into the future.  In verse 9 comes the climax: ‘Remember … I am God and there is no other … there is none like me … I tell my purpose and it comes about, all that I will, I accomplish’.  It is a wonderful message of hope for us to carry through Lent: ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save.’

We take this Saying into our minds, allowing the saying to speak to us:  Isaiah 46:4 ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save’.

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:

Isaiah 46:4 ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save’.

As we begin to receive this saying deep down into our own lives, we start with a sense of profound thanksgiving for everything that God has given to us.  He has made us and we are his – everything that we have, everything around which is so lovely at this time of year in the natural world and in the gardens – everything comes from him.

But in the midst of that we each have a burden to carry.  That burden may be a difficult relationship – an argument that never seems to go away.  Or it could be too much to do and too little time to do it.   Or it could be the burden of a hurt which has been inflicted at some time on us – or one which we carry guiltily that we have inflicted on others. It could be pain or suffering either in our own lives or in the lives of others around us.

Behind this saying is a message of hope and of faith.  The Christian story focuses on the way in which Christ bore the burden of the suffering and the sinfulness of the world on his shoulders on the Cross.   We sing so often ‘O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world’.  The Lamb who was sacrificed is also the good Shepherd who will seek and save the straying sheep and carry them back to a place of safety (John 10.11).

In our contemplative time now we allow him to lift the burdens from our shoulders and carry them for us.  He will bear the burden.  Just as the yoke was for two oxen, so the yoke of Christ is for two – he is alongside us sharing everything with us, our burdens, our pain, our sins.

Let him do that with you just a while.   In addition let him share with you your salvation, the way in which you can be brought to safety, restoration, rebuilding, a faith rekindled and a future with him.

Leave the words behind.  Let him carry you so that you become weightless in your contemplation: ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save’.

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.

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 … ‘even to your old age … I have made, and will bear; I will carry and will save’.

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.