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Answering God – Day 11

Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Day 11 – Monday after 2nd Sunday of Lent  

To Read:

A&Q sidewaysWhen you are preoccupied and distracted in meeting let wayward and disturbing thoughts give way quietly to your awareness of God’s presence among us and in the world.

Receive the vocal ministry of others in a tender and creative spirit.

Reach for the meaning deep within it, recognising that even if it is not God’s word for you, it may be so for others.

Remember that we all share responsibility for the meeting for worship whether our ministry is in silence or through the spoken word.

(Advices & Queries #12)

From the Scriptures:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

(Romans 8v26-27) 

To Reflect: 

Have you ever been bored in the middle of a church service?
Have you ever thought that the message being preached was great, if only ‘that’ member of the congregation was there to hear it?sermon not based on someone
Have you ever found yourself during the prayers tempted to start scrolling through Social Media on your phone, convincing yourself that God must have something more important for you to do ‘out there’ rather than wasting your time ‘in here’?

I really hope someone else has because it would be really lonely if I was the only one who was a serial offender at this unchristian attitude to worship.

It’s hard work, this listening intently to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit through the words (or the silence) of our sisters and brothers in Christ!

Helpful advice is given all too easily, ‘Let go and Let God’, ‘Bend your heart when you bend your knees’, and the one I frequently quote to others, ‘Pray as you can and not as you can’t’.  But when the voices inside are strong and the words outside don’t make my heart sing, it is so easy to miss the Body of Christ and the Words of the Holy Spirit completely.

This is a common challenge for those who try to go deeper in the faith and, in Contemporary Christianity is expressed deeply in the words of Matt Redman’s song ‘Heart of Worship’

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you,
It’s all about you, Jesus

the-heart-of-worhipThe sadness behind this particular song, beautiful as it is, is that it has often become part of the very problem of a self-involved approach to worship instead of an antidote to it.  This is not just a criticism of contemporary worship, the same challenges face those who leave no space for the whisperings of God’s presence because of an unchanging ritual and set prayers or who have an inability to hear God’s voice from people other than the ‘authorised’ minister.

Perhaps we need to look at our understanding as to who is the real minster in our meetings and our worship?  Yes, ritual and theological education helps prepare us for spiritual growth and guards orthodoxy, but is not the only minister of our faith the Holy Spirit?  Is not the Holy Spirit the one who was promised to us as the one who would guide us into all truth[i] and would be the one to remind us[ii] of what Jesus did?

In the face of this how are we to come to worship?  We are to offer ourselves, preoccupations and distractions included, to the awareness of God’s presence and allow our sisters and brothers, by their words, their song, or their silence, to help us be more centred and whole.

Hildegard of Bingen had this to say about making ourselves present in worship and becoming a ‘feather on the Breath of God’ and so making ourselves available to God

The soul is kissed by God in its innermost regions.
With interior yearning, grace and blessing are bestowed.
It is a yearning to take on God’s gentle yoke,
It is a yearning to give one’s self to God’s Way.”

Which I suppose, in the end, is her way of saying ‘Let go and Let God’ yet it is more feather on the breath of Godthan that.  To be present in worship is not to fall into an emptiness but to be held by the divine presence mediated to us by the respect and care that our sisters and brothers have for each other and for us.

The apostle Paul is correct, ‘we do not know how to pray’ so all we can do is be present and let God pray in and through us.

 

To Pray:  

Circle me, Lord.
Keep protection near 
And danger afar.

Circle me, Lord.
Keep hope within. 
Keep doubt without.

Circle me, Lord.
Keep light near 
And darkness afar.

Circle me, Lord. 
Keep peace within.
Keep evil out.

(Irish Blessing)

 

To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  Set an alarm, perhaps even on your mobile phone, and spend five extra minutes in attentive silent prayer today using today’s prayer to lead you into the silence and to end it.

 

Acknowledgements:

Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright  © Becca Anderson 2017

These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged

[i] John 16v13

[ii] John 14v26

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