Contemplative Guide 10 – Inheritance

Now if we are children, then we are heirs –

Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

Romans 8:17



Stilling: Being present to God

Begin with a simple stilling candle 3

You may want to light a candle, or say a short prayer as you intentionally place yourself in the presence of the Holy One.

Find a comfortable position and be still for a couple of minutes. Concentrate on your breathing – slowly, in and out. Relax your muscles. Don’t worry about any thoughts that come into your head; acknowledge them, then come back to your stilling exercise.


Say the following prayer as you commit to being in God’s presence:


Dear God,

You sustain me and feed me;

Like a shepherd you guide me;

You lead me to an oasis of green,

To lie down by restful waters.

Dwell in me that I may dwell in you.


From Jim Cotter, Psalms for a pilgrim people, Psalm 23


Inheritance and Idolatry

The common interpretation of the word ‘inheritance’ is ‘what you get from your parents when they die’. In reality, though, an inheritance is far more than the material possessions left to you by your parents. What a child inherits from her parents is richer, deeper, and more profound than a sum of money. Who you are and what you become is a product of your inheritance: both the genes that are passed on to you, setting your potential, and the environment that you grow up in – your parents’ attitudes and behaviour, your wider family, and your influences outside the family – all combine to mould you into what you finally become.

No matter how hard we may try not to, as parents we inevitably pass on some of our values to our children. If what we value is riches, a comfortable life with all we could need or wish for, that is what our children will inherit – along with the binding greed, the fear of loss, and the indifference to the needs of others that such idolatry brings with it. If what we value is achievement, status, and power, that is what our children will inherit – along with the low self-esteem, the constant striving to be good enough, the bullying, and the exploitation that come with that idolatry. If what we seek is pleasure and indulgence, an easy life, fun and action, and a wide circle of friends, we will pass that on to our children – along with the emptiness that so often sneaks in with this idolatry, the fear of pain, and the loneliness of absent love.

Of course, comfort, achievement, and pleasure are all good things. But they are gifts from God. When we cease to see them in that light, with gratitude in our hearts to the Giver of all good things, they begin to supplant God, becoming gods in themselves, to which we become enslaved in idolatry. That is when we pass these things on to our children, and to their children, and their children’s children.

But when we keep all these in their right place, and worship God and God alone, giving thanks to him for all that he has made, loving God and keeping his commandments, then we see the blessings of his love extending to a thousand generations.


Growing up to be a child, pages 127-8; 131-2




Prayer: Encountering God

Choose one of the two exercises below as a contemplative approach to prayer: Encountering God through your family tree or Encountering God in Scripture



Use this Psalm as a way of responding to God, who wants for you a rich inheritance.


Praise to the God of Justice and Peace:

from the depth of our being we praise you.


We praise you, God beyond gods;

with a world restored we praise you.

In faith we anticipate that day,

and praise you for the firstfruits of its coming.


We do not put our trust in passing fashions,

nor in the promises of powerful people.

They are powerless to save, their ashes are scattered,

their words soon crumbling to dust.


Praise to the God of Justice and Peace:

from the depth of our being we praise you.


To the Creator of the infinite heavens,

of the earth and the seas and their creatures,

who works unceasingly for justice,

we give our heartfelt praise.


You keep faith with your promises for ever,

you put right the wrongs of the oppressed.

You give food to the hungry and thirsty,

you set the captives free.


You give sight to the blind,

your arms lift up those who are bowed down,

you love those who live simply,

you care for the stranger, the widowed, the orphan.


Praise to the God of Justice and Peace:

from the depth of our being we praise you.


At times we do these things with you,

surprising ourselves by our courage,

giving voice to those who are not heard,

troubling and pressing the makers of policy.


The cities we know are a patchwork,

a jostling of places of hope and despair.

Yet still we give thanks for the vision

of the City of Harmony and Peace.


In the justice of relationships made right,

in the peace that is well-being for all,

we worship the God of justice and peace,

we praise the God of freedom and joy,

we adore the God of love and new life,

we bless the God of reconciliation and healing,

we glorify the God of harmony and bliss.

We add our voice to the music of God;

we fall silent in the presence of Mystery,

in wonder and awe and love,

the Mystery that is the Source of our being

and the goal of our longing,

beautiful, utterly holy, glorious light,

unbounded love: Alleluia! Alleluia!


Jim Cotter, Psalms for a Pilgrim People, Psalm 146



Closing: Going on in God’s presence

Finish your time by saying the Lord’s Prayer.