August 2024

‘Be still, and know that I am God’ Psalm 46:10 (KJV)

This quotation from Psalm 46 is probably the most well known and loved  saying in the Bible and is central to Contemplative Prayer.

Verse 9, immediately before it, focuses on God as the ultimate warrior; the breaker of all bows, spears and burner of all chariots. It is in this context of conflict that we are told to ‘Be still’, for God will always triumph. This saying is as relevant today as it was then. Our world seems almost out of control; full of conflict, suffering, power games and injustice. People are exhausted with endless information, noise and stress. God calls us to be still outwardly and inwardly; to experience His presence without and within.

In Psalm 37:7 the psalmist says ‘Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him’ (NIV). This may not sit well in our consumer-driven society. Perhaps we might think a little more about the stillness of holy waiting. Contemplative Prayer to some people might seem a waste of time. But to engage our vocations, relationships, hopes, and our lives with and in God as an active presence, is not wasting time. Living gently with other human beings, whilst waiting on the gift of friendship, is holy waiting. The depth of living and growth in grace cannot be rushed. Inner stillness needs to be cultivated slowly.

We might take heed of the monastic discipline of harmony and balance in our lives. In the Benedictine monastic life, there is a rhythm and balance. There is a structure to the day with prayer at its centre. Around prayer’s rhythm, there are set times for work, meals, study, and recreation. Monastics may be busy but there is a calmness, harmony and tranquility about them. Monastic life is not one of escape, but is deeply involved in community and with the needs of others. The whole of such a life is one of prayer, as ours also can be. When prayer is reflected in all our actions, this prayer  flows out embracing all humanity.

Contemplative prayer involves the discipline of daily times of quiet waiting, often in dullness or dryness of spirit. But of central importance is simply being there, being still and waiting in quietness and trust for God; now and again there may be a glimpse of the glory and certainty of God’s presence.