The corona virus - praying contemplatively

At a time when the Covid-19 virus is causing disturbance and anxiety, Martin Tunnicliffe (former Secretary General and Chaplain to the Fellowship) has written this note:


These are troubling times. The Corona Virus pandemic has proved to be a body-blow to the world which has caught us off guard.

What about prayer in this situation, especially contemplative prayer?

I believe that this is a wake-up call for us in the Fellowship to re-energise our spiritual work of hearing, receiving and doing the Word of God. It is interesting that the situation has been compared to that of wartime. I am old enough to remember World War 2 and I agree that there are quite striking similarities.

In this connection, I also recall that the FCP founder, Robert Coulson,  began his own amazing contemplative journey by praying contemplatively in a London cellar during the 1940s blitz in company with a Hindu religious teacher.

In 1951, I visited my mother in the hospital where she was dying of cancer. She calmly said: “I have so much more time now to say my prayers.” Just now, I am not able to visit my wife Irene in the Care Home because they are in “lock-down”. I am trying to use the time that I would normally be with her as a further opportunity for contemplative prayer and the “work” of intercession.

In 1994 the Fellowship published a booklet entitled “Postscript”. It is based on Robert Coulson’s personal correspondence and contains some wonderful practical and pastoral teaching. The sections on “Contemplation and Prayer”, “Intercession” and “Suffering” are particularly relevant in our current situation. Here are a few extracts:


(when the threat of nuclear war loomed large) I most earnestly believe the alternatives are: Contemplate: or perish (p.12).

Our aim in the Fellowship is to receive the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God by means of letting His Words dwell in us richly in all wisdom, as Saint Paul puts it (Colossians 3.16). For God’s Words are Spirit (John 6.63). There is no substitute for inspiration for anyone who knows, and wants to attain, the ultimate destiny of humankind, which is to be Holy as God is Holy (1 Peter 1.16) (p.13).


In the last analysis there is nothing but I AM, and all creation is like one endless multitude and diversity of cells in His Body. HE knows what HE is doing...Put your trust in HIM (p.18).


Intercession...ultimately the most important activity humankind is capable of, in the degree that it really is “in the Name of Christ”. I have begun to see this so clearly, and to try and practise it so actively, that other work is now seen as a distraction from the most important work of all (p.27).


First it is we who repeat the Words. Then suddenly they are spoken to us by The Presence, who is at first shadowy but grows ever clearer. Then comes the still more wonderful time when they are spoken by Him to others through us (p.27).


Why does it have to happen? Always I am driven back to the same answer, “This thing is of ME” (1 Kings 12.24). “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt understand hereafter” (John 13.7). All trouble comes, in the last analysis, to help us to break out of our little selves and get even deeper into the Supreme SELF (p.40).


Suffering is absolutely unavoidable if the joy of creation is to be won. There is a growing belief that we are in for a very trying time here, both economically and sociologically. I am not apprehensive, but believe we shall get a thorough shake-up, and rightly so for our sins. That, in a way, will be welcome (p.40).

I am never, I hope, disappointed where things of Our Lord I AM are concerned, for He knows His purpose, and alone knows it (Jeremiah 29.11 NEB) (p.48).


                                                                                           Martin Tunnicliffe 

                                                                                           March 2020


Some Sayings that you might like to use in a time of prayer                        

“I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will come and heal you”                                                                     (2 Kings 20.5)

“Take hold of my strength”     (Isaiah 27.5)   


“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”    (Mark 6.50)


“Set your troubled hearts at rest; trust in God always, trust also in me”                                                                                   (John 14.1)