This month's contemplative exercise


A Contemplative Exercise for June 2017

 

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 in the context of a Prayer Group, and it is not intended to be definitive.

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

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me"     John 7.37  REB


 Introductory Invitation to the time of prayer

As we come into the Lord's presence we relax and get comfortable in His presence.

We open ourselves to Him and His spirit and adopt a receptive posture as He bids us:

"Come unto ME all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"    Matthew 11.28 

Spend a minute or two in silence. 

Then you may wish to use this prayer from the Jesuits: it may help us focus and give our attention to this time of prayer:

Lord, we so wish to prepare well for this time.
we so want to make all of ourselves ready and attentive and available to you.
Please help us to clarify and purify our intentions.
We have so many contradictory desires.
We get preoccupied with things that don't really matter or last.
We know that if we give you our hearts,
whatever we do will follow our new heart.

In all that we are today, all that we try to do,
all our encounters, reflections - even the frustrations and failings
and especially in this time of contemplation and reflection,
in all of this may we place our life in your hands.
Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will. 


Introduction to the first silence - a preparation for listening with the mind:

We turn to our saying as we prepare our minds.

The saying from John 7.37 is "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me".

When we look at the context of the verse in John 7 we find that this is what is described as happening...

'On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says." (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)' (verses 37-39, Message version)

The Feast of Tabernacles was a festive celebration for the Jews. They made booths (tents?) from branches and lived in these to remind themselves of how God cared for Israel during their forty year journey through the wilderness. During this festival large candlesticks lit the temple area, a reminder of the guiding pillar of fire. Also, each day, the priests carried water from the pool of Siloam and poured it from a golden vessel, a reminder of the miraculous provision of water from the rock. 

As I write these words I notice the indoor plants on the windowsill and also plants outdoors. It is one of the hottest days of the year so far and some watering later in the cool of the day may revive their drooping heads. As humans we can survive without food for reasonably long periods but water is essential for our continued existence.It is the last time during the feast that the priests draw water and pour it out and it is on this final day of the Feast that Jesus makes His great invitation to thirsty sinners, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me". It was also, on the last day of the feast, the time for the priests to march seven times round the altar chanting Psalm 118 verse 25...  "Save us, Lord, save us!  Give us success, O Lord!" (GNB) or even, in the words of the Message translation, "Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God, a free and full life!". Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Jesus makes his great invitation in this context?

 As we look in to his invitation it becomes clear that the cleansing and washing that are offered, the water that revives us, give us a picture of the Holy Spirit. Our dear Lord offers to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us, to refresh us, to cleanse us, inspire us, drenching us in rivers of such living water, the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit will delight to restore and revive us, bringing us back to true, flourishing life.  

This is not the first time that Jesus has used such vivid imagery of the Holy Spirit. In John chapter 4 the woman at the well has a life changing encounter with Jesus and Jesus describes the water he offers as an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life, and that anyone who drinks the water he gives will never thirst, not ever.

(For those of your group who like pictures, this invitation might be brought to life by providing printed pictures of the 'Water of Life' sculpture at Chester cathedral showing the water flowing from the shared cup and an intense and tender encounter between Jesus and the woman, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22The_Water_of_Life%22_sculpture_in_Chester_Cathedral_cloister_garth_(17).JPG )

As we take this saying into our minds, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me", maybe it is appropriate to ponder just how much we have responded to Jesus' great invitation. Are we in need of cleansing by His rivers of living water, have we allowed His Holy Spirit to refresh us? Might we come as we are, bring who we are to Jesus, might we even acknowledge how thirsty we are and consider how we may respond to his great invitation, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me".

And in brief ....   "Thirsty? .... Come"


A time for silence of the mind - between 5 and 15 minutes


Conclude with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me"

 

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

As we turn to taking the saying deeper into our very selves, into our heart, our gut and we let God and the truths of the saying touch our core, we just reflect a little further on what was going on here.

The priests were chanting "Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God! a free and full life!" and they were pouring out water. Jesus makes His great invitation offering thirsty sinners the opportunity to come to Him and drink. Those who believe in Him, those who to come to Him, are promised rivers of living water and now that Jesus is resurrected and ascended the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out on us.

Might we ponder what it is that stops us responding fully to this invitation as we engage our hearts in this part of our prayer? Yes, we are thirsty, though have we been drawn away from a full and free life, do we often hanker after many things that offer false promises of comfort, status and security? We might invite Jesus to step in to our lives, ask His Holy Spirit to point out to us where we are hanging on to other things and trying to satisfy our thirst by other means. Are there times when we have abused our freedom and made choices that have hurt God, others or ourselves? Are there any recent times when we have failed to love God, not shown love to others or indeed failed to love and respect ourselves? Another useful question might be to ask ourselves where it is that we are out of touch with our dear Lord, remembering that Jesus invites us to come to him, He responds to us moving toward Him and He promises rivers of living water, a free and full life. Is there anything we need to let go of so that His rivers of living water can more fully flow in to and through us? Or perhaps we might ask ourselves whether there are any gaps or holes in our lives where Jesus would delight to pour His living waters, any aspects that would hugely benefit from the percolating waters of His Holy Spirit?

It is perhaps of interest that research such as Theos' Wellbeing research and also Oliver James in Affluenza clearly indicate that happiness and wholeness are linked with faith and a trust in a higher purpose. Jesus was offering a solution to the thirsts of the human heart as he made His great invitation at the feast. Might we go deeper in to His shalom, might we respond in the depths of our hearts and come to Him?

We return to our saying and take it into our hearts...

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me".

And in brief  "Thirsty? ...Come"


A time for silence of the heart - between 5 and 15 minutes

 

Conclude with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me".

 

Introduction to the time of intercession:

We now come to our time of intercession. We might remember that Jesus offers living waters that will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in Him. We are to be the channels for these rivers of the Holy Spirit and perhaps in our prayers, as we apply our will, we are beginning to work alongside the Holy Spirit as we ask Him and Jesus to intervene in situations and draw alongside people. The woman at the well was a channel for the artesian springs of living water for her whole village as she went to share the exciting news about a man who knew all about her and invited them to meet Him.

We remain focused on the saying and at the same time we bring alongside us the person, concern or situation for whom we pray. You might even imagine bringing the person or situation to the Feast and see them responding to Jesus' invitation to anyone who is thirsty and that Jesus invites them to come to Him. Many areas of the world have a physical need for water, other areas are desperately in need of refreshment from the emotional distress that seems to accompany relying on materialism or in countries that promotes capitalism as a way to assuage one's thirst. All seem to be in need of Jesus' rivers of living waters.

We use our saying to enfold all the people and situations we are concerned about. Say the name; then, after a moment of silence, repeat the saying - let the words flow through you to them.

For example:

To those who are involved in engineering projects, digging wells....

Jesus says "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me".

To those lacking a purpose in life...

Jesus says "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me".

To those who are distressed because of bereavement...

Jesus says "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me".

 

Conclude with a short thanksgiving and/or repeat the Saying: - 

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me"


Use the Fellowship Prayer 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, our selves, 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.

 

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