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July 2024 Clergy Letter

Finding God in Silence                                   

 Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’                             1 Kings 19: 11-13 NRSV

Elijah knew that God wasn’t present in any of those dramatic events. It was only when he heard “the sound of sheer silence”, that he went out to meet with the Lord, who then spoke to him.

Just over a year ago I started training on the Art of Spiritual Direction Course, along with Linda Pitcher. We’ve now finished the Course and I’ve found it challenging but also very rewarding. Each session began with about an hour of  prayer,  when we found a quiet space and reflected on a passage of scripture, a poem or a picture, allowing it to daw us into a time of silent prayer. Then we responded by journalling  or in some kind of artwork. We were encouraged to spend a time each day at home in this type of prayer.  Although  it wasn’t always easy  to carve out the time, I found it so valuable to reconnect with the practice of contemplative prayer;  just being available to listen and to enjoy “resting under the gaze of God”

This kind of prayer certainly isn’t just for those intending to be “spiritual companions” to others! Over the past few months I’ve been helping with a weekly Contemplative Prayer Group at HMYOI Stoke Heath. We use material from “Finding God within – Contemplative Prayer for Prisoners” by Ray Leonardini, who has led prayer groups in American prisons. We spend around 12 minutes in silence and then allow a time for anyone to reflect back if they wish. Some men have begun to recognise the benefit of carrying on the practice in their own cells, finding it helps them feel calmer and more focussed. Even in prison it is possible to enter into your own quiet space; to filter out the physical noise around you – and, more importantly  - the noise of your own inner thoughts.

This type of prayer is a means of drawing us deeper into a relationship with our Lord; of discovering  a God who loves and accepts us and who longs to meet with us. All you need is a quiet space – maybe somewhere you can place a candle, a cross or whatever helps you to focus on Jesus.  Something you may find helpful  as a starting point is the “Pray as you Go”  App which is free to download.  As our thoughts turn to summer holidays, why not try taking some time out with God – if only for a few minutes each day – and allow Him to lead you along some new paths as you journey with him.

Rev Chris S


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