Contemplative Word for the month

“Be still, and know that I am God”

(Psalm 46.10) 

Rowan Williams writes, “The challenge is to find enough time to become quiet enough and still enough… The deepest problem in prayer is often not the absence of God but the absence of me.  I’m not actually there.  My mind is everywhere.”  He recommends taking a few deep breaths and using a few simple words, such as, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’  He says, “Stick to the phrase, let it sit in your mind.  That’s a beginning of being there.  And when you are there God can relate to you.  God cannot speak to you if you are not actually there.”

Henri Nouwen put it dramatically when he wrote, “We have an address but are never at home, so can’t be addressed by the voice of the first love.”  And Martin Laird writes equally forcefully, “God is our homeland…. Every pilgrim is constantly being called home from the noise that is around us.  Let us journey home then to the silence of our own fathoms by becoming still….  When the mind is brought to stillness, and our own strategies of acquisition have been dropped, a deeper truth presents    itself.  We are and always have been one with God.”

‘Mindfulness’ is a word much in fashion in today’s hectic world. It may be expressing a new search for the old Christian practice known as Centring Prayer, the Prayer of Silence, or the Prayer of the Heart, when we are taught to return to the still centre of our own lives. A friar of Clare Priory in Suffolk writes that “to wait in silence for as long as it takes is to be taken eventually to the still centre where we find the mind has become quiet and the heart is at peace.  And in the stillness, we find God.”

So, let’s get off the railroad of noise and rush and simply…… stop!  The Hebrew word for “Be still”, in this month’s verse, implies a sharp command to let go, to drop it all, as you might command a dog to drop a bone!  Listening to our own breathing can be a helpful start, for in Hebrew the word ruach means not only breath but wind and spirit too, so our breath can quite simply be experienced in the silence as the breathing of God within us.

“Be still, and know that I am God”