January 2021

January 2021


“Pay attention … and listen”

Exodus 23.21 (NIV)


It is an assumption that lies behind the Fellowship method of prayer that the Word of the Lord in the Bible is an eternal Word. Although it was originally uttered to apply to a particular situation in the past, being an eternal Word it also has a current relevance.


I came across this comment in another Christian publication from the Lee Abbey Movement: “The biblical narrative in Exodus has surprising resonances with our recent and current experiences.” Following a series of plagues in Egypt the people of God set out into unknown territory. Their journey was long and hard. At times they looked back wistfully to a more stable and predictable existence. The road proved much longer and more perilous than they expected (or were led to believe) and they experienced deep loss and grief along the way. But it was also a time when people learned to live together well, helped by new guidelines. Throughout it all God’s presence, provision and protection never failed them. God was with his people. He went before them – a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13.21).


It is not surprising that another verse from the Old Testament echoes in my mind in times of uncertainty. The prophet Jeremiah lived at a time of imminent catastrophe; he had to prophesy exile for the people of the land. But he also said (Jeremiah 29.11) ‘Surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’


Our task as would-be contemplatives is to pay attention to Him and listen to what He says. This sometimes seems easier said than done. Listening requires patience. No wonder contemplative prayer is called work.


Jesus himself had to get away from the crowds, and even from his disciples, to commune with his Father in Heaven. Like Elijah he needed to listen to the ‘still, small voice’. Our contribution to the life of the church may seem negligible. But if we can whole-heartedly embrace the Word of God, and offer ourselves up for service, who can say what outcome there may be?


This is a Watchword for contemplative time: “Pay attention …. Listen…”