I am so grateful for the diverse streams of the Church of Jesus, and the the richness to be experienced in that diversity.
Over recent years I have begun to learn more about contemplative prayer, as well as the beauty and value of simply being in the presence of God with no need for words.
Coming from a very evangelical background, being introduced to contemplative prayer has brought me a new freedom, rest and delight in prayer. And it has also had a profound impact on those times that invariably come where my head, and even my heart and soul, are such a swirling mess that I find it difficult to formulate words. I have now learned/am learning to bring all of that into God’s presence, and when I can’t find the words to not even try. I simply sit with it all in His presence, giving it over to Him, maybe with palms open (unless I happen to be walking out in nature) and breathe Him in. Then slowly everything within me begins to settle.
I recently went on retreat at the beautiful Sannox Centre on the Isle of Arran. I arrived on the island only a little before ‘Storm Ciara’ so my plans were slightly delayed and my retreat extended by a few days but it turned out to be the best thing for me.
I arrived at Sannox in a similar state to what I describe above – my head and heart and soul swirling with tired thoughts, questions, concerns, tentative hopes and, if I’m honest, some underlying anxiety.
I had been counting down the days until the retreat and when I was finally there, I went into prayer as quickly as possible, desperate to talk with God about it all, desperate for Him to speak.
That first evening was difficult. My internal world would not settle and I kept pushing for words – words from me and words from Him.
But only silence.
And then I let go, stopped pushing. I remembered what I am learning about simply being in His presence. In my heart I heard, “It will come. I will speak. But for now, draw breath, relax, let go… and linger.”
How often do we linger in God’s presence when we aren’t hearing anything, simply content to sit in companionable silence? Yeh, me neither.
So I lingered.
The next morning I wrote this:
the storm was in my heart and mind,
swirling in my soul.
the storm rages outside.
Wind and rain beat at the windows.
But I am cooried in.
Cooried in next to the fire of Your love.
Cooried in under the blanket of Your peace.
Candle flames flicker and dance,
like the gentle presence of Your Spirit.
The wind howls,
the trees swish and creak,
A heart content,
content to rest at the hearthside of You love.
“Not in the fire, the tremor or the wind”
But in the deep quiet I listen,
content to wait
for the gentle whisper
that brings forth life.
If you can relate to that sense of your internal world resembling the storm in the external world and would like to learn some helpful prayer practices, such as contemplative prayer, we would really recommend How to Pray by Pete Greig, the 24-7 Prayer Prayer Course and Prayer:Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard J. Foster.