January 2024

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: ‘This is the way; walk in it’.  Isaiah 30:21 (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:

‘This is the way; walk in it’.

In the 7th century BC, Isaiah warned the Jewish people of the dangers of making the wrong decisions in their dealings with other nations.  At this time the Assyrian empire was expanding westwards across the world. The city of Jerusalem was in a vulnerable situation threatened by both Assyria and Babylon.  King Ahab and then King Hezekiah had to decide where they should make alliances.  Should they even consider turning to Egypt for help?  Isaiah predicted disaster for any nation that acts without first consulting the Lord: if the Jews were rebellious and sought to unite with countries which did not worship the Lord then woe would, it was suggested, befall them.  The people found themselves between a rock and a hard place.  Whatever political decision they made would lead to suffering and possible destruction.  They needed, ultimately, to listen to the divine word: ‘This is the way; walk in it’.  They needed to cry to the Lord and have Him answer them, although the process needed patience.  The larger section of Isaiah Chapter 30 from which this month’s Saying comes therefore states: ‘He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you.  Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”’ (v.20-22).

Life was to be tough for the Jews for a long time.  The fall of Jerusalem and the years of captivity by the Babylonians lay ahead before they would finally return home in 538.  But the call to be faithful to the Lord was there.  It was not easy for the people and their leaders to be alert to that word throughout the years of suffering.  They would so often turn away and adopt the practices and religion of the powerful society that was threatening to overcome them.  God called them to remember the way in which He had led them in the past, the covenant that He made with them, the laws that He gave them. 

During our first silence we can consider how difficult it is to make decisions at any level whether political or personal, and get our mind around the words that God speaks into the ears of his people: ‘This is the way; walk in it’.  We take this Saying into our minds, allowing the saying to speak to us: ‘This is the way; walk in it’.

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.

‘This is the way; walk in it’.

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

‘This is the way; walk in it’.

Later in the book of Isaiah we hear more about the ‘Way of Holiness’ (35:8) and how it can be found.  St. Mark begins his gospel with a quotation from Isaiah: ‘As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord;  make his paths straight’”.  The messenger appeared in a place of barrenness, a desert bereft of signposts.  John the Baptist was the one who prepared the way for the Messiah, baptising those who repented of their sins, and pointing the people towards Jesus.

God spoke through Isaiah to Judaea when it was struggling to negotiate its way between the threats of aggressive nations, and keep their faith in the Lord.  God spoke through John the Baptist to the Jews who were suffering under the oppression of the Roman Empire.  The people were struggling to keep faith with God.  The times in which they were living made it difficult to follow God’s guidance.  Is it ever easy for humankind to hold fast to God?  The modern world offers us so many paths to take.  There are so many ways in which we can use our resources and conduct our lives.

We struggle, but like the followers of John the Baptist, we have Jesus Christ with us.  The disciple Thomas was able to ask his master the question, ‘How can we know the way?’.  We are told that Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:5-6).  We are called to walk in Jesus’s footsteps.  It was not and is not an easy path.  Jesus warned his disciples of what lay ahead of him.  He tells us to take up our cross and follow him.  It will not be an easy way, but it leads to the greatest glory.

During our second silence let us take this word into our hearts. Let us consider the full implication of its influence on our lives and how it may inspire our actions. 

‘This is the way; walk in it’.

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.

‘This is the way; walk in it’.

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 … “This is the way; walk in it”’.

As we allow the word to speak through us we might direct Jesus’ word towards those people and situations where there are difficult decisions to be made, where there is fear or suffering, where there is a need to know and trust the Lord Jesus.  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.