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Prayer, The Imagination, Healing and Peace

Dear Parents, Guardians and Friends,

The middle of the night may not be the most attractive time to waken up and give time to prayer. As you read this letter, there are many throughout the world who do precisely that. They are not only in a monastery or a convent. You may be surprised how near to you such a person may be. Their gift is mostly a hidden one.

An elderly friend of mine used to rise at 2.00am on Wednesdays and Fridays for an hour. [Wednesdays and Fridays are traditional days of fasting.] He would put his dressing-gown on and sit by the bay window in his little sitting room. What he did, of course, was nothing – in one sense – but his ‘nothing’ was work that was utterly essential. He would imagine someone whose name had been given him, who was terminally ill in a hospice and imagine the person in front of Christ. He would ‘leave him there’ for a short period and ‘get out of the way’. After a while, he would clear his imagination. Then he would hold a country before Christ in his imagination. Once again he ‘got out of the way’. Then he would hold a leader of a country before Christ in the same way. After he finished, he always spread his hands out in thanks. Were there answers to his praying? Well, all that was in the praying and trusting.

When I think of my friend now, it was as if he was a kind of conduit-like channel. It was if the agonies of those for whom he was praying entered into him and flowed out from him. So he was working with Christ in carrying others agonies. Of course, it’s vital that time, energy, work, generosity, resources, hospitality is given to this practice, particularly now to the almost incomprehensible suffering of Ukraine and beyond.

This inner work of the imagination is also vitally important. For me, Christian Mysticism is about a deeper, wider, inclusive ‘realm’ [for want of a better word] of being. So, when I use the imagination in praying, there’s a shift in consciousness that does radiate beyond where I am and what I’m doing. We are somehow drawn into the Universal Love that inevitably issues in small and increasing acts of loving.

The process I’m suggesting to you is quite simple. However, it begins with taking your own imagination as a serious resource for creativity, healing, and – yes – peace. It’s worth planning to put at least 20 minutes aside, in a place and at a time that you can remain in silence and in as much stillness as you can. This letter is an invitation for you to give it go! But no! I’m not suggesting you get up in the middle of the night, unless something deeply moves within you to do. After all, if you’re in bed and are lying awake briefly, you can practice this praying.

  1. Just notice your breathing in and breath out for a moment.
  2. Imagine you have Christ near you, in front of you, beside you. Don’t struggle with this. It may be that no obvious image occurs. That doesn’t matter. Even saying the word ‘Christ’ is enough, or whatever prayer or sentence you’ve grown close to!
  3. Be silent in His presence, which you won’t sense, except through your imagination and trusting.
  4. Specifically, I’m suggesting that you give attention to Ukraine… The fearful and homeless, political leaders, the diplomats etc. Just take one person that you can imagine from what you’ve seen or heard. You can even hold Vladimir Putin in front of Christ, despite your feelings. The diplomats for Peace mostly do their work unseen. Hold them. Remember, who ever you have ‘brought in’ to be here with Christ, ’get out of the way’ for a period of silence.
  5. Be there in the silence.
  6. To keep your mind and heart reasonably focused, you can use this mantra: ‘Jesus, God of Peace, have mercy’. There is a beautiful way of using this sentence, which you might use: ‘Jesus, God of Peace, have mercy on them’, ‘Jesus, God of Peace, have mercy on us’, ‘Jesus, God of Peace, have mercy on me.’ ‘Jesus, God of Peace, have mercy,’ ‘Jesus, God of Peace,’ ‘Jesus, God,’ ‘Jesus’. Slowly, slowly…. Silence. This is, as it were, moving into the centre of your praying life with more and more simplicity.
  7. Whoever you have brought into your praying with Christ, must leave, so that you can have your moments of being loved and strengthened. Spread out your hands in thanks. You must keep your own inner life as healthy as possible.

 

I would be interested to know, if you do try this, how it was for you.

In the Love of God,

Bishop Martin
School Chaplain

15 March 2022
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