Praying with Words
(A Contemplative Meditation)
Praying with Words
A Reflective Meditation
Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Be aware of the chair supporting you.
Be aware of the ground beneath your feet. Relax and let the tension drain away.
Put aside your worries. Be aware of the stillness and peace here. Listen to the
silence. Feel yourself breathing in and out. . . . . .
In your mind you open your eyes and look around you. From your grassy
hillside seat, you can see the sun just above the horizon. Sunset colours are
smeared across the sky. A recently lit fire, shoots bright sparks, high into
the darkening sky. The smell of wood smoke lingers in the air. You are sitting
near the fire, with perhaps a dozen others. Some are talking quietly. Someone
is asleep and snoring. One or two are looking round, as though waiting for
In the distance you can just make out the familiar outline of Jerusalem, see
the square houses clustered around the huge temple. Even from here you imagine
you can feel the power and permanence of it.
A figure appears out of the growing darkness, and joins you by the fire.
Someone asks where he has been. Several say together - "praying
again". There are smiles and quiet laughter. Jesus just smiles. He often
goes off at this time of day. Sometimes he is gone all night. He spends so much
time praying. Always seems so calm and at peace, that you've all thought about
praying more. You tried it for a while. But at the end of a long day, it's so
much easier just to sleep.
Someone else asks whose turn it is to tell a story tonight. But on the
evenings that Jesus is with you, everyone wants to hear one of his stories. By
the firelight, you can see everyone looking expectantly at him.
For a moment, he pretends reluctance, then nods his agreement. Silence now,
except for the crackling of the fire, as everyone gets more comfortable, and
waits for him to begin.
His story is about two men you all saw earlier in the temple. A Pharisee -
one of the powerful religious elite, a man to be envied and feared, and a tax
collector - despised for collaborating with the Roman army of occupation.
As he tells his story, Jesus mimes the actions of the two men. The Pharisee
- striding confidently into the temple. Looking around for the best place to
stand. Deciding to stand in a bright sunbeam from a high window. Carefully
arranging his robes. Smoothing his beard. Loudly clearing his throat. Flinging
his hands into the air, arms spreading wide. Throwing his head back. A
satisfied smile on his face, as he prays . . .
'God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in
marriage like other people. And I am really glad, that I am not like that tax
collector over there. I go without eating for two days a week, and I give you
one tenth of all I earn.'
Then the tax-collector - stopping barely inside the temple. Looking around,
hoping not to be noticed. Trying to become invisible in the shadows of a dark
corner. Shoulders hunched. Head bowed low. Almost doubled over, as if in pain.
Pounding his chest, as he prays . . .
'God, have pity on me! I am such a sinner.'
After a moment, Jesus says "When the two men went home, it was the tax
collector who was pleasing to God, not the Pharisee." Some of the group
are clearly shocked by this, and Jesus elaborates. "If you put yourself
above others, you will be humbled. But if you humble yourself, you will be
honoured by God."
There is a pause, then Jesus continues
"When you pray, don't be like those show-offs who love to stand up, and
pray in the meeting places, and on the street corners. They do this just to
look good. I can assure you that they already have their reward.
When you pray, try to find a quiet, secluded place, so you won't be tempted
to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can. When
you let the focus shift from you to God, then you will begin to sense his
presence and his grace.
When you pray, don't talk on and on as people do who don't know God. They
think God likes to hear long prayers, or perhaps that he is persuaded by their
length. Don't be like them. Your Father knows exactly what you need, even
before you ask him!
So try to pray like this:
'Our Father in heaven, help us to honour your name. Come and set up your
kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven.
Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others.
Keep us from being tempted, and protect us from evil. The kingdom, the power,
and the glory, are yours forever. Amen.'
Remember that if you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your
Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don't forgive, neither will your
But a prayer isn't something to be learnt by rote and then hurried through.
Pray slowly. Take time to think about what you are saying, what you really
He pauses, and looks around at the group, "Don't make it hard, the most
important thing is to be honest with yourself, and with God. He longs to spend
time with you. Eagerly waits for you to spend time with him."
He is silent for a while. Gazing into the fire, he seems lost in thought.
Then looking up, he continues
"Spending time with God in prayer shouldn't be chore. It's something to
look forward to, to delight in. You can to talk to him about anything, about
everything. He would rather you shouted at him, than ignored him. Pour out your
pain and frustration to him - he can take it. No need to put on a good show
before God - he knows who you are and how you are feeling. No need to try and
hide anything. Prayer should be a conversation between you and God though, so
you also need to take time to be quiet, and listen for his word to you."
He pauses again, before looking at you and smiling. He knows you always have
questions for him. Sometimes they're about his stories, but not always.
Whatever you say, he always listens. Always has time for you. Never seems to be
in any rush. Even when you struggle to find the right words, somehow he always
understands what you mean. . .
What do you want to say to Jesus today ?
What do you need to bring to God in prayer ?
Talk to him now. . . .
|Ruth Gillett, Reflective
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