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4 Reflective Prayer

12 MarchReflective Prayer with John Bennett

Week 4 of the CTSD Lent series was introduced by Kevin Taylor who noted that Anglicans are particularly specialist in reflective prayer, opening with the song Be still for the presence

Our speaker has been thinking about wisdom; he said that the church is blessed by having a predominance of older people.  He recognised how age may bring wisdom and recognition of the mistakes we make.
All the ancient and new books are sources of wisdom; today, social media and the internet may appear to be at the top of the ‘Wisdom Pyramid’ while, at its base still lies the foundation stone of the Bible.  Luke 2.52 describes how Jesus increased in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favour.

We can't just build incrementally from where we are.  There are ways in which we may see how we grow in wisdom; John described how a snake sheds its skin and how vulnerable it is in the process.  We change physically as we go through life and we also change spiritually.  We do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4.16-17

The direction of our life changes as we get older; the high point of our achievements typically comes near the middle of our lives. In the second half of our lives we focus less on going higher and more on going deeper.  Richard Rohr describes this as falling upwards.
In the normal course of things is not about climbing, it's more about broadening, particularly for us Christians.  Do we do what we say we believe in?  Or is life about letting God in to shape us?

John offered five characteristics of the second half of life:
Ego - Turning 50 he heard that he should be far less concerned about what other people thought of you. Time to let go of role, power, status or possessions and come to a point where we lose any desire to prove.
Expansively - accepting weaknesses uncertainties and hurts as part of being who I am, taking delight in discovering alternative perspectives and people whose experience is different, no longer dividing the world into ‘them and us’ and no longer needing my group beliefs to be completely right.  On Mothering Sunday, it may be appropriate or better to acknowledge that not all mothers were wonderful.
It may the time of life to learn how to have good disagreement between us and to not get angry about our differences.
Should we use ‘non-‘ to describe others?  Being right is not as important as being kind.  Our speaker suggested that he had ‘put his foot in it’ several times.  Living ‘non dualistically’ means realising that between black and white there is a full spectrum of colour - rather than greys.  It’s a time to celebrate more and judge less, reflecting more and analysing less resulting in feeling more grateful and less upset.  Matthew 7.1f   It’s good for us to be alive and realise that God is in all of it, having a sense of oneness with God and Creation.
In the second half of life some find it easier to live prayerfully; we may have read about it but there may be a greater desire to do it.  Prayer nurtures a first-hand reality that is neither known by the senses nor obvious to the mind.  Getting there may mean living more simply and we have to clear away some of the clutter of our lives where the noise of our lives drowns out the quieter, subtler voice of God.  There may be a yearning to experience wonder, joy and peace.  John described his time on silent retreat with just a Bible; after the first 24 hours the retreat was amazing – ‘Just me and God and not anyone else’.

What stops us from this life?   We are to take action from a still centre.  Far better to engage with people who challenge me with compassion enriched by joy, sadness and compassion and to challenge injustice not by expressing anger but by firmness, patience and quiet determination, possibly influencing others unknowingly by openness, grace and joy.  The example was cited of Anthony who sought solitude in a cave and yet the people came out of the city to sit at his feet; the further he went, the more the people came.

Reflective prayer
* Sit comfortably, move to another seat if you need to
* Breathe slowly and steadily
* Hand to God the concerns for the day
* Repeat silently be still and know that i am God
* Rest in the stillness of God
* Read Luke 2.25-36 Simeon
* In silence reflect on the story -picture the scene – remember what was said.
* Listen for what God is saying to you through that story

Image of Simeon & Anna with Holy Family at the presentation in the temple, copyright details awaited

Thanks to all at Spalding Baptist for recording this year's talks; listen again