April 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:

I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and of good courage’. Joshua 1:5-6 (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:

'I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage'. 

Joshua had an enormous challenge ahead of him and we can only imagine how he was feeling.  How could he possibly follow in the footsteps of Moses and accomplish the task which lay ahead of him? Moses had died and the young Joshua, son of Nun, was to take over from the mighty Moses who had freed the Israelites from captivity in Egypt by parting the Red Sea.  

The children of Israel had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and it was up to Joshua now to lead them into the promised land.  He would have to claim back the land from its current inhabitants, he would have to fight and to lead battles, and provide spiritual leadership for a large group of people. Moses had been a great and powerful leader and Joshua was afraid that he might not be worthy enough to step into his shoes.  As he was feeling the overwhelming weight of the task before him, the Lord offered Joshua these words of encouragement, ‘As I was with Moses so I will be with you … I will not fail or forsake you. Be strong and of good courage’.

Joshua’s task was to lead the Israelites over the river Jordan into the Promised Land.  The army was to seize back and repossess the land of Canaan which had been captured by the Canaanites.  There would also be other difficult fights ahead.  It was a time of great upheaval and hardship, and also a time of change.  Only God would give Joshua the strength to accomplish what lay ahead of him and on hearing His reassuring words, Joshua sets out with a new resolve and strength of mind and heart.

Similar sayings of encouragement from God are scattered throughout the Old Testament and indeed are found several times in the book of Joshua.

So let us now put ourselves into the shoes of Joshua as he faces this enormous task ahead of him and hear these comforting words of God in the silence of our minds.

‘I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and of courage’.

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:

‘I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage’.

Life can be full of challenges, sorrows and tough decisions.  But even amidst hardship, the Lord counsels us to be strong and courageous.  Understanding Joshua’s circumstances and challenges can help us face hard things with faith and confidence.

The world today is not dissimilar to that of Joshua’s day, despite the fact that it was thousands of years ago.  There are wars and the threat of more wars; there are those living and dying in war zones, we see the injustice done to those living in poverty and hardship, to those coping with life-threatening situations.  The time in which Joshua lived was a time of great transformation, and our world today is also undergoing a time of change and upheaval and immense challenge. 

We are all part of these times of change, and coping with them can require a lot of courage and strength.  When we start a new job of any kind, or have a large task to fulfil, we may feel that we will not be up to scratch and there is always the fear that we may not fulfil what is expected of us and that we will not succeed.  This is an entirely human feeling and one which Joshua must have felt when he was tasked with leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.  We may perhaps be changing jobs and pursuing an entirely new path that God has been preparing for us.  Or we may be going through a long period of bereavement with all the different emotions of grief that can engulf us.  In these contexts, what does it mean to be strong? 

Part of being strong and of good courage means trusting in the Lord as our true source of strength.  In Joshua’s case, he didn’t have all the answers to the challenges before him, but he was counselled to go forward anyway, acting in faith.  Like Joshua, we too seldom have all the answers.  But God promises that when we turn to Him for guidance, we will succeed.  God is all-powerful and all-knowing.   He has the resources and the strength we need to face any challenges we are facing.  We need to remember (as Teilhard de Chardin puts it) that 'We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience'.  

It is important not to be driven by anxiety in case we fail, but to stay in the moment, trusting in God and His Word.  There are many encouraging words of Jesus in the New Testament that will dispel any feelings of fear and anxiety, including the complete assurance of His presence with us at all times; for example: ‘I am with you always, even to the close of the age’ (Matthew 28.20).  So let us prepare for our second silence, the silence of the heart.  Let us open our hearts now to God, and receive His Words of Spirit and Life into the depths of our being, remembering His words to Joshua: 

‘I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage’.   

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.

'I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage’.  You can shorten this if you like, for the Watchword or for intercession, to ‘Be strong and of good courage’ or ‘I will not fail you or forsake you’.  

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 “I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage” ’ or

‘Alison and your family “I will not fail you or forsake you” (if you are shortening the saying).

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.