June 2021

A Contemplative Exercise for June

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

Ezekiel 36.26      

 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (NIV)

The whole verse is

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (NRSV)


To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; become aware of the sounds around you and put them aside; offer this time of prayer to God.


Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep 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:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you

This saying goes straight to the heart as being the essential centre for our relationship with God.

Let’s first think about Ezekiel and where he was coming from. Ezekiel must have been a remarkable man: he had a vision which coloured his entire ministry, described at the beginning of his book. A younger contemporary of Jeremiah, he was imaginative, passionate and dedicated to his task, of saving his people. This salvation, he says, will only come about through a total transformation – a new heart. And he doesn’t just mean a heart transplant: the heart in Jewish thought stood for the whole personality, the essential man.

In creating animal life, God begins with the bodies – the primitive animates. Then he develops the brain in the higher animates and the ‘Adam event’ in evolution is the birthday of the heart. The human heart still has a tendency not to hear, or want to hear, the word of God: in Psalm 95.8 the psalmist says ‘Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts’. It is easier to follow the promptings of the body and the brain, but in choosing a heart of stone we paralyse and petrify the very thing that makes us distinctively human. Through knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ we can receive this ‘new heart’: ‘If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation’ says Paul in 2 Corinthians 5.17

In our way of praying we begin by receiving the Word with the mind – because we are human, that is our starting point. But we seek to find the balance between brain and heart. So first we prepare ourselves to receive these words from God into the mind. We want to listen to his word with wisdom and understanding, themselves God-given qualities:

 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you"

The literal meaning of the word ‘spirit’, in Hebrew ‘ruah’, is also the word for air, or wind, or breath. We can remember the words in Ezekiel 37.5, when God says to the dry and dessicated bones filling the valley ‘I will put my breath in you and you shall live’.

So now  as we sit and contemplate this Word, as we begin our time of silence, we think of our breath: perhaps repeating the words rhythmically as we breathe in and out, helping us to relax and listen to God as he says

 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you”


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.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you


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

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you

Some years ago I was at an event led by Cynthia Bourgeault which was full of food for thought. One of the things she was emphasising as she spoke about contemplation was the importance of the heart – the heart as a means of perception which is beyond intellect, the embodiment of what goes beyond physical space; the heart as the ‘hologram of the Divine heart’, enabling a resonance, bridging the gap between heaven and earth.

At the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, a wonderful place in Limehouse which has been a centre of Christian hospitality since the 12th century, there is a lovely chapel. Engraved around a compass needle pattern on the floor is a quote from St Augustine of Hippo: ‘We do not come to God through navigation but by love’. The greatest example of love was that revealed in the incarnation and the life and death of Christ. God’s response to humanity’s stony heart, the heart of Adam, was the gift of Christ – the New Adam. Christ enables the revelation of God in any and every human heart – and the contemplative discipline of silently allowing the Word to speak to the heart enables the heart of stone to become a heart of flesh. In spite of all human resistance, rebellion, disobedience, and intransigence, the heart of flesh will triumph. Because ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth’ (John 1.14)

So in our second time of silence we aim to gather our mind into the heart, to enable us to give the full attention of our hearts to God, freeing us from clinging on to cares, both bad and good. We aim to put our mind in our heart – Cynthia talks of Jesus as the Divine Cardiologist who enables this. We try to put aside the thoughts with which as humans we are so absorbed; we listen with our hearts, we silently wait on God…. We wait, in our emptiness and our weakness and our wanderings and lack of attention, for the Spirit – promised here in these words spoken to Ezekiel and also in Romans 8.26: ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words’

The breath was traditionally the pathway through which the soul enters the body. Like breath, divinity is invisible and the Spirit moves invisibly among us. We can make our breathing, our physical ‘inspiration’, easier – we sit in an upright position, with a straight back, we try to breathe regularly in time with the words we are saying to ourselves – but the Spirit’s inspiration is unprogrammable. We just prepare ourselves to be surprised by the unpredictable; we make ourselves ready to be inspired...

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you


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



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

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

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you


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

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you

As we move to another phase of the Covid pandemic which has dominated out lives for well over a year, we try and look forward with vision and hope for the future. We pray that our vision will be enhanced and our actions blessed by God’s spirit working in the world as it struggles to restore itself. But this will only come about if we have the right priorities, if we put God at the heart of our efforts and activities. And if we do, then we need not fear, either for the immediate or for the long term problems – we place them in the hands of God and of the Spirit.

In our own lives, in our individual concerns, we do the same. We ‘pray to God, Sailor, but row for the shore’: we put God at the heart of what we do … and then get on with it to the very best of our abilities.

We might wish to bring before God in our time of intercession

-         those continuing to suffer as a result of the Covid virus

-         those carrying forward research into vaccinations and treatments

-         those whose lives and livelihood have been profoundly changed by the events of the past year

-         those preparing for ordination

-         those searching for faith 

-         those suffering from depression, anxiety, fears for the future 


Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying, for example:

All you with responsibility for re-building and restoring communities and workplaces – God says to you  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you



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 CO