Gazing into the Face of Yeshua (in a group setting) Part 10
by Sue Towne
This week we end our look at contemplative prayer. We have talked about some practical things along the way—kind of the “how-to’s.” But now I want to give you a little more encouragement to pursue this kind of prayer yourself.
When Yeshua was asked to give the most important commandment, He said that it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the First Commandment, not only from Yeshua, but also in Torah. I believe we are living in a time when God desires to restore this First Commandment to first place in our lives.
Contemplative prayer is one tool, one approach from scripture, that helps us develop our personal love for the Lord in a direct way. When we take the time to draw aside from business or worldly pleasure and just sit in silence by faith before Him, we are doing something that even some in the church might label as “foolish” or as “wasting time”—or even as a form of “daydreaming.”
But God is always looking at our hearts. If we come to this kind of prayer with the desire to please Him, to connect more deeply with Him, to let Him change us (see II Corinthians 3:18), then we have the right motive.
God is pleased by faith (Hebrews 11:6). It takes faith to sit alone in silence and give precious time to Him even when it seems like nothing is happening during that time.
I have shared several weeks ago about doing this kind of prayer alone, individually, at home. I want to mention a few experiences I have had doing this kind of prayer in a group setting.
Back in the summer of 2002 when Messianic Vision sponsored the conference at Epworth, I taught about contemplative prayer in the afternoon session. And as part of that teaching time we did a kind of group exercise in contemplation that I have done with other groups as well.
I played some quiet instrumental music for about ten minutes. During that time individuals could either just engage with the Lord by faith in silence, sitting in His presence with Him. Or they could use one of my handouts to meditate on one of two suggested passages in scripture—Isaiah 12:2-3 or Song of Songs 4:12 & 15.
The music lasted about 10 minutes, and it was our cue gently to end our time in the Lord’s presence and share our experiences, as we were willing.
I recently had a similar experience in group contemplation at a 24-7 prayer house here in the Chicago area. That experience was structured around an hour. For the first 15 minutes some CD’s were played to move people from focus on daily life to focusing on the presence of God.
Then for the next half hour we sat in silence, listening and experiencing the Lord in various personal ways.
The last 15 minutes was spent sharing what happened to us during the silence.
I have also had the opportunity from time to time to be part of two local groups that engage in contemplative prayer in group setting.
One group meets every Saturday morning for about an hour. At the beginning of the hour the leader starts an audio tape that is blank for the first 20 minutes.
During that 20 minutes everyone sits in a circle in silence before the Lord, enjoying whatever personal experiences are occurring. Then when soft music begins on the tape, that is the cue to shift focus gently back to the group. The group usually recites the Lord’s prayer together and then shifts to a time of intercession, ending about an hour from the time they started.
Another group which I have attended often over the last 5 years meets once a month on a Friday night for a service of what is called “Taize prayer.” Taize (tay-ZAY) is a tiny village in France which hosts a Christian monastic community of about 100 brothers, from Catholic and from Protestant backgrounds and from various nations around the world.
Three times a day the community and its many young retreatants sing simple scripture songs that have been written for this purpose over the past 50 years or so. The centerpiece of each of these song/prayer meetings is an extended time of contemplative silence, usually about 20 minutes.
Here locally our Taize group meets together once a month. About 800 people fill a local church, and we sing Taize songs as prayer for most of the meeting. But at a certain point in each meeting, we sit together in silence for about 10 minutes in the presence of God.
This is such a powerful experience! The group of 800 or so come from all over our region, from various church and non-church backgrounds, young and old, male and female, from various ethnic and racial groups. The thing we have in common is a hunger to experience the presence of the Lord.
This is not a “charismatic” prayer meeting, yet the Holy Spirit is powerfully present every time. I feel the pleasure of the Lord seeing all these hungry souls gathering together to spend this time with Him. A true unity of the Body of Messiah is evident there, as the Holy Spirit unites our prayer in simplicity, crossing our doctrinal differences.
Spending time corporately in silence is so precious and is something that we do almost none of in our charismatic and pentacostal circles. What a treasure we have lost in our zeal always to fill the silence of our meetings with prophecy, music and preaching!
But you can still recover some of that treasure individually. Spending time alone with Yeshua or with the Father on a daily basis becomes a hidden ministry of the heart. It depends only on our willingness to come to this place of prayer and on His willingness to grant us His presence in that place—to give us this prayer experience.
Our position in Him is not a title or a rank, but a place in His bosom, like a flower hidden there near His heart. It is a ministry that no one can take away from you—a ministry you will always have.
It is part of the filling of your extra jars of oil, as in the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25). It is practice for eternity, getting ready for life with the heavenly Bridegroom.
There’s a song we have been singing recently in my congregation. I think the title is “I Can Only Imagine.” In the song we try to imagine what it will be like the first time we see Yeshua, face to face.
What will we do? Will we dance for joy? Fall on our face? Kiss His feet? Lock gazes with Him?
The truth is that none of us knows for sure. What a wonderful thought, just to think about that first time….
But in the spirit we can look into His face now. We can be alone with Him now. We can experience more of the depths of His heart now.
And one of the ways to do this is through the discipline of daily contemplative prayer.
I hope that what I’ve shared with you over these many weeks has at least awakened a curiosity about this kind of prayer.
May the Holy Spirit draw you into the secret place of the Most High and in that drawing may He take you from glory to glory, as you gaze into the face of the Beloved.