January 2023

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:Look, I have set before you an open door’ Revelation 3:8 (NRSV)

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:

‘Look, I have set before you an open door’

The New Year is often a time for making new resolutions and this year we might make a resolution to give more time to our prayer life and spiritual reading so that our ministry of service and prayer for others may be more effective. In the troubled times in which we are living, the work of prayer and intercession is all the more vital. 

This saying is from the book of Revelation and is spoken by the Lord to John in a vision, as a message to give to the church of Philadelphia.  The seven churches in Asia have been facing fierce persecution by the Romans.  John is living on the Greek island of Patmos and has a series of visions.  Each of the seven churches is addressed by name and is either reproached or commended for how they have behaved as fledgling churches.  The church of Philadelphia is largely commended.  

The city of Philadelphia was founded in the second century BC as part of the Greek empire.  At the time it was a border town, standing at the place where three countries met: Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia.  Philadelphia commanded one of the principal trade routes between Europe and the East.  It was therefore perfectly placed as being a means of spreading the gospel. 

John commends them for their steadfastness and faith in the midst of adversity.  In AD 17 there had been a powerful earthquake that had hit the city; buildings were damaged and partially destroyed. Thousands of people were killed.  By the time John writes his letter, the city has been rebuilt but the citizens were still traumatised by everything that had happened to them.  John gives them reassurance and encouragement that amidst the trials they may have to face, there will be opportunities for them to proclaim the gospel. 

The ‘open door’ is used here as a metaphor and is found several times in Revelation and also in St Paul’s epistles.  In the same chapter of Revelation Jesus uses the word in a wonderfully illustrative way, ‘Behold I stand at the Door and knock’.  Jesus, Light of the World, is standing at the door of our hearts, knocking.  An ‘open door’ is also a Pauline metaphor, as for instance in ‘a wide door has been opened to me for effective work’ (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Each time Paul uses the words he means that he sees a favourable opportunity for missionary activity.

As we prepare now for our first silence, let us take these words of Jesus into our minds and imagine Him speaking to those first Christians in the church of Philadelphia who had been traumatised by the earthquake and its after effects and like the other churches are suffering persecution for their faith. We also listen to Him as He speaks to us in our own circumstances.  Let us imagine a door opening in front of us remembering that once Christ has opened it, no-one is able to shut it. 

‘Look, I have set before you an open door’.   

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:

‘Look, I have set before you an open door’.

We are living in turbulent times when the future seems uncertain and fraught with problems. Many people are frightened and troubled as the country faces serious economic hardship, with a war in Europe that does not seem to end.   We have had to face the seriousness of the current situation as those early Christians faced their trials.  There were similarities with the churches in the time of Revelation, where the open door led directly into a time of trial.   But so often, times of trial and upheaval lead to new life and opportunities.  The persecution and martyrdom of those early Christians led to the birth of the Church as we know it today.

Each time we step metaphorically through the open door and into the Divine Presence, we are given a wider understanding and inner knowledge of the power of God’s unconditional love that comes from deep listening and stillness.  The strength given by our awareness of God’s presence within us will sustain us through every trial and tribulation we encounter as we travel along the path of our life’s journey.

The open door is given, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of others.  Through prayer, and in responding to God’s love for us, we grow more aware of the needs of our neighbour and we see that each of us is given an opportunity to listen, help and minister to others.  During a crisis we so often see communities come together and generosity and kindness are so evident. We see friends and neighbours helping and comforting each other.

Christ has set before us an open door to new abundant life, it is up to us to slow down, and pause in order to notice this opening up.  God is giving us opportunities all the time, some of which will radically change our life and even the lives of others.  Sometimes, we will pass through the door into a new future, a new chapter in our lives. 

So let us take hold of God’s promise of new strength and fresh endeavour. As we go through the door in trust, we embark on a new stage in our journey in a spirit of anticipation and trust in Jesus who dwells in us as we dwell in Him.

We now listen to these words of Jesus and let them dwell more deeply into our hearts, into the very depths of our being, and let them take root in us.

'Look, I have set before you an open door'.

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.

‘Look, I have set before you an open door’.

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 ... 'Look, I have set before you an open door'.

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.