November 2017

A Contemplative Exercise for November 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 primarily in the context of a Prayer Group, but it may be used by individuals if so wished. 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 light (in your heart) a lamp of understanding (which will not be put out)”   2 Esdras 14 v 25 (NRSV)


To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still, becoming aware of the sounds around us and offering this time of prayer and our self to God.


Say this introductory invitation to prayer, keeping 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:


Ezra was a scribe and priest; he was a scholar who is said to have put in place ten standing laws and orders. He was what we might call an academic now ….a man who possibly lived by his very effective mind.

We do well to bear in mind that it was when the Lord commanded Ezra to withdraw from everyday life for 40 days, that His promise ‘I will light in your heart a lamp of understanding’ was able to be fulfilled.

Ezra had asked that God should fill him with the Holy Spirit so that ‘the whole story of the world’ might be revealed to him, and he could impart it to the people so that ‘they might have a chance to find the right path’.

The condition that was required of Ezra was to withdraw, and listen, and remain open to God’s word; and to leave his everyday distractions aside for that time.


This reminds us that the receiving of God’s wisdom cannot be done easily…. nor ‘in passing’ so to speak, nor without the right conditions of attentiveness and receptivity. There is a suggestion that some self-discipline is required! And that this does not happen simply through the work of the mind. God refers to the heart here with significance.


Once Ezra had withdrawn from the world’s standards and the everyday life in which he was involved, then the promise to him that ‘a lamp of understanding’ would be ‘lit within his heart’ could be fulfilled, and  he could be assured that the source of this understanding would be by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was then that he would be equipped to share his understanding with the people.

It is important for us today, to recognise the context in which these words ‘I will light in your heart a lamp of understanding’ were spoken to Ezra.

On reflection we can see that this was given to him after his own request, for the purpose of God’s work, but only under the conditions that God chose for him.

In our own contemplative prayer we can practice this withdrawal into silence and stillness ….a withdrawal into attentiveness to God, under his loving gaze, where we can become receptive to His word.


“I will light (in your heart) a lamp of understanding (which will not be put out)”



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



The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

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



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

I will light (in your heart) a lamp of understanding (which will not be put out)”  

In the promise given to Ezra we are given the beautiful and loving image of God Himself lighting a lamp in our hearts.

An image such as this is very helpful as we absorb the depth of meaning and significance for ourselves.


As we move further into the silence of the heart, we begin to see the relevance of these words in our own lives today.

We were reminded in September that what happened to the people in Isaiah’s time was also to be a working of principles for all times and for all peoples.


The Lord makes it clear that this understanding, this wisdom and this ‘knowledge’, is an understanding of the heart .… which is the source of God’s own Wisdom, rather than the acquired knowledge which comes through the work of the mind. And that our hearts will be lit up with it!

‘I will light in your heart a lamp of understanding’ are God’s words to Ezra, but they are also to ourselves today. 


 So we grow to see that no amount of mind work will impart this,  and that there can be no true wisdom without this graced ‘understanding’ of the heart, through the attentiveness that God requires of us. 

The medieval priest and scholar Meister Eckart told his congregation regarding this   “The soul is capable of knowing all things in her highest power.”

And later, St Benedict’s direction was to “Listen with the ear of your heart”.


This then is how we move on from our first silence of the mind…. to the ‘centre piece’ as it were of our contemplative prayer, which is the silence of the heart.

In this silence the right condition is enabled for us to truly receive the deeper meaning of God’s words.


“I will light (in your heart) a lamp of understanding (which will not be put out)”



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



Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and by repeating the Saying:

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



Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God’s word outwards.


“I will light in your heart a lamp of understanding which will not be put out”


You may wish to shorten the Saying to use in intercession for others, and then for use as a Watchword during the month.


“I will light the lamp of understanding in your heart”

“I will light the lamp of understanding”


With this word in mind we can now bring the meaning alive not only for ourselves, but also most importantly for the lives of others, in our intercession.



Conclude the 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.


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, 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.  

This month's exercise was contributed by CM