Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
– Romans 12:2
Stilling: Being present to God
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:
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
In chapter six of Growing up to be a child I describe the child’s growing concept of object-permanence: the recognition that objects and people continue to exist even when we can’t see them. I then go on to consider how we need to learn the concept of ‘God-permanence’:
A young infant doesn’t have an understanding of object permanence and so will not know that the toy she has been playing with continues to exist even when she stops playing with it. More profoundly, at the earliest stage she does not know that her mother continues to exist when she can’t see, feel, or hear her. When her mother puts her down and leaves her, she has no guarantee that this same mother will come back. She soon learns, however, that her mother is faithful. Although she may at times doubt it when her mother doesn’t immediately come, she learns that it is OK.
As adults, we cannot conceive what it is like not to have that understanding, or how it must feel for an infant without the deep-seated assurance of her mother’s constancy. But this is very similar to our relationship with God. We have no certainty that God actually exists. No matter how profoundly we may experience God at times, we cannot guarantee that he really is there. This is where faith comes in.
A poem, allegedly found written on a wall somewhere in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, captures this faith beautifully:
I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining;
I believe in love, even when I feel it not;
I believe in God, even when he is silent.
Prayer: Encountering God
Response: A quiet day or silent retreat
This response will take some planning, but see if you can commit to undertaking this in the next few months.
Find a retreat centre which is offering a one day (or longer) quiet day or silent retreat, and use this opportunity to experience an extended period of silence in which to encounter God.
Closing: Going on in God’s presence
Finish your time by saying the Lord’s Prayer.