August 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 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:

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (RSV)

To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; you might enlist your body to help with this by adopting a receptive pose and systematically relaxing your way through your muscles or you may find it helpful to become aware of the sounds around you and then 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:

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

We find our Saying, which are the words of Jesus to Paul, in Paul's second letter to the people of Corinth, namely in Chapter 12 verse 9.

To understand and see its relevance for ourselves and for those for whom we will pray, we might first look at Paul’s Visions and Revelations, verses 1-8 of Chapter 12 which state:

12 I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 Though if I wish to boast, I shall not be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me (RSV)

Those verses are particularly important, speaking as they do of the ‘thorn’ Paul was given, and the three times he asked for it to be removed.  It was then he heard Jesus say,

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

Whilst we do not know what the ‘thorn’ was, like so many before us, we can only speculate. It seems to me that the obvious reason for God giving Paul a thorn appears to be to keep him humble; it was an ‘object lesson’ if you like, not only for Paul, but for us too, so that we do not think too highly of ourselves and stay focused on Him.

I think there was also another reason behind God's decision to give Paul a thorn and why we too have them from time to time; and that is, to reveal His power and glory; they are reminders that He is holy and gracious, and, if we let Him be, He is the One Who controls our lives, doing so for the better.

We have all probably heard of some Christians who believe, and those who actually teach and preach, that being a Christian means being immune and free from ‘thorns’ or troubles; but we all know, I'm sure, that isn't the case!  It doesn't matter how deep our faith, how close we stay to God through prayer or Bible study, even how much or well we serve Him, there will still be times of trial; and when they come our way, we quickly find out that we need extra help to face them.

Let me share an illustration with you to show what I mean:

A river normally flows within the boundary of its bank on either side, but occasionally, there is a flood and when that happens the river overflows its banks because it cannot hold all the water pouring into it. 

So it is with us, and the hard trials we sometimes experience.  Usually, life goes along fairly quietly and smoothly until a perfect storm of trouble occurs; the effect then is that we are overwhelmed, unable to see a way out and we easily become filled with despair; it is then we too will hear God say,

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

Taking that promise into our first silence, we allow it to fill our minds as the Holy Spirit helps us to be still and hear Jesus say to each one of us:

'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.   

Or the Watchword – ‘My grace is sufficient for 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. 

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

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

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

I wonder if there were times when you questioned what you read, heard in a sermon or a Bible study about Jesus?  Did you wonder about the things ascribed to Him, what He did and said?  Doubting Thomas certainly did; others too, together with those who questioned Who or What He was and where He came from.

The Jewish leaders who were eager to be rid of Him didn't take kindly to His ministry in action or His words, especially such of His declarations as, ‘I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no-one comes to the Father except through Me’ or ‘in three days I will rebuild the Temple’ and when asked if He was the Messiah, ‘I AM, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of Heaven.’

Declarations they may have been, and still are, but I would also describe them as promises, just as our Saying is, in its way, a promise; and it is because of Who He is -the only Son of the Living God, the One who was there when and for whom God created the world, because He is divine – God made man, it is because He is all those things and more, that He could and still does, make us those promises, and we can believe in them, without question!

In the same way as He made the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf hear, so too can He impart His grace into our hearts and into our circumstances, at the exact moment He perceives that we need it.

His own experiences were far worse than any we will ever know and they make Him uniquely qualified to administer that grace, a grace which flows from His own suffering, to be a blessing to us.

Over the past few months, I have been going through a terribly painful and emotionally difficult time as there were people at work who seemed to be making my life miserable and this prevented me from exercising my ministry with my usual joy, freedom and care.

But, I have heard Jesus say the words of our Saying and it has only been possible for me to carry on due to the grace He has given me and in the comfort and strength I have needed to be able to do so.

I have learned that it is always good to hear those words of love, encouragement and hope and to hold them, not only in my mind but also in my heart. Even when life is going smoothly it is worth keeping them for that rainy day of trouble, when yet another thorn embeds itself in your life, because, after all, thorns, whenever, wherever and however they come, they do hurt and it isn't always possible to remove one on your own, particularly if it is deeply rooted.

So, why don't we move into our second silence, with hearts open to receive Jesus' words of promise as He says to each one of us by name: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

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

Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or by repeating the Saying:  Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

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

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

When I have time, I really enjoy watching old black and white films on TV.  A few weeks ago, I took the opportunity of being up-to-date with my workload, to look at a Sherlock Holmes film I had recorded some months previously.

In it, a man, running across the moors, in a futile attempt to evade Holmes, fell into a bog, something like quicksand.  Now we all know what happens when someone does that; in their fear they flap around, struggling to get out, yet all they are doing is making the situation worse as they are sucked deeper into the mire, until they vanish forever.

Troubles can not only be just like thorns in the flesh, but rather like the bog too.  We can fall into them when we are not looking and be dragged in without realising it is happening until it is too late. 

Strangely enough, the more difficult they appear, the harder we flounder in our efforts to find a way out.

Today, there are many people in that kind of situation, whether individuals, organisations, countries and so on.  Somehow, either through their own fault or the influence of others, they are trapped in the pit of despair, the slough of despond as it is called in Pilgrim’s Progress and they struggle, trying every key in the lock as it were, to get free.

It is then, they definitely need the Lord Jesus to reach out to them with His unconditional gift of grace through those wonderful words,

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

In our third silence then, we can bring to Him, those we know of, those we especially care about, all who, of necessity, should hear Him say: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’.

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

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 … ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness’.

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.