December 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.

Saying for the month: 

‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’ Zephaniah 3:14, 20 (NIV).  

In your time of contemplation, you may like to shorten this to ‘Be glad and rejoice’.

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:

‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’

Our saying comes from Zephaniah who was most likely ministering in Judah around the time of king Josiah’s reign. It’s really rather exciting to read the response to unearthing the book of the law in the temple in 622 that can be found in 2 Chronicles 34:14 onwards. Josiah leads the nation into a time of religious reformation, a new approach and a change of heart. We regularly encounter Zephaniah in Advent, the beginning of the church’s year, perhaps it is also a time for a fresh start and a turnaround in our own thinking and actions?

It seems that, at best, Josiah’s turnaround, his undoing of the nation’s falling away, and reform of religious life was only partly under way as Zephaniah brought God’s message to the people. There looks to be a clear call to a thorough housecleaning. This clean sweep is in anticipation of the arrival and visit of an honoured guest. There is the threat, warning and judgement of the ‘Day of the Lord’ though perhaps this brings an urgency and prompts us to ensure we’ve done our preparation in due time and thoroughly? Is our home in order, are our hearts prepared, have our lives been swept clean of things that linger and may offend our Lord?

Perhaps this new church year is a good time for resolving, for fresh resolutions that lead us into transformation? We’re getting ready to remember the mystery of the incarnation, such a special divine visitor. Are our hearts ready so that we can fully rejoice with Jesus in our midst and fully enter in to the magnificently joyful and happy reunion that we find foretold in Zephaniah chapter 3 when we are urged to: ‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’

A tiny word of caution regarding how we undertake the housecleaning, how we look at our spiritual formation and transformation? Just a reminder maybe that this is perhaps not so much a self-help project, not so much about setting goals and assessing progress and definitely not about despair, anxiety, guilt, inadequacy or unworthiness. Much more helpful to us perhaps as we step into the New Year may be the ‘fear of the Lord’. Might we take this as being open, receptive to God working in us to restore and transform us and to bring joy and release and restoration? Might there be a fresh sense of awe and wonder as we look forward to the incredible mystery of the divine becoming embodied and setting up his tent among us and taking his place in our neighbourhood? What joy and rejoicing that might prompt in us as God works his restoration in our lives and neighbourhoods?

We take this Saying into our minds, allowing the saying to speak to us: ‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’

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: 

‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’.

As we take our saying into our hearts and allow it to speak in us, affecting our emotions and working more deeply within us it might be appropriate to open ourselves to the distinctive message that Zephaniah brings, so very appropriate for Advent, as he declares that God is ‘within you’.

There is much reassurance as we reach Zephaniah chapter 3. For us, it may not be the ‘Day of the Lord’ that hangs over us as a threat. However, there may be much anxiety and much that provokes fear in our life circumstances. The sources of anxiety are seemingly endless: financial security, bodily health, loneliness or concern about being accepted and belonging are just a few.

In Zephaniah 3:16 we find God encouraging us to ‘not be afraid, to not allow our hands to droop’ with the weight of these burdens. There is the reassurance as we are told ‘Don’t be afraid … Don’t despair. Your God is present among you’ (verses 16,17, MSG). Perhaps our anxiety and concern might be transformed into the sense of awe and wonder that is the fear of the Lord as we allow God’s word to work in us and our hearts and souls re-formed by his working in us?

We might just pause at verse 17 also and gaze at God rejoicing over us. In Goldinghay’s translation, ‘Yahweh, our God is within us, a strong man who delivers. He celebrates over us with rejoicing, holding his peace in love and being resoundingly glad over us’. God is happy to have us back, he’ll calm us with his love and delight us with his songs (Zeph 3:17, MSG).

Is God’s joy and rejoicing over us infectious? Does that prompt us to ‘Be glad and rejoice’?

We can look forward to a happy reunion and family gathering. Sorrows have dissipated and burdens have been relieved. We’re brought to a place of safety, of refuge and divine stronghold as God is among us and our fortunes are restored (verses 18-20). Might we surrender our fears, take up courage and wonder as God steps into our neighbourhood, our prepared heart room, and takes up residence in and among us?

We may be reassured that God is in charge and ‘in the end He will turn things around for the people … He’s a strong warrior here to save us’ (Zeph 3:9,16 MSG).  There may be much to ponder joyfully as we take this word into our hearts: ‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’.

We take this word into our hearts and allow it 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.

‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’

At the beginning of Zephaniah chapter 3 we find much rebellion against God’s ways. People have not listened; they have not accepted God’s correction and they have not relied on Yahweh. This criticism is applied widely; it is true of the officials, the authorities, and also the prophets and priests. Perhaps this will prompt us to be wide ranging in our prayers that the national and international housecleaning might be deep and thorough so we can come through to God’s blessing, know fresh joy and rejoicing and look forward to his blessing of restoration?

As we apply our Will in the work of contemplative prayer, please say the name of a person or a group of people or an issue, and after a short pause, repeat the saying.

For example: ‘Alison and your family … ‘Be glad and rejoice … when I restore your fortunes before your eyes’.  

As we allow the word to speak through us, might we direct this word towards the officials – our politicians and leaders - all in authority who take the lead in any way and our church leaders that they may rely on God and be open to his correction so they better lead us into the joy and rejoicing of his blessing?

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.