July 2021 Contemplative Prayer

As a priest in the Church of England I am expected to pray every day as part of my job. Over the years I have tried many ways and methods as I have sought to make prayer central to my life, especially in my life as a priest. At the moment my practice is to spend the first part of every morning in prayer and meditation, as I seek to embrace a life that is in tune with the heartbeat of God. Getting to this point has been quite a journey as I have lived through more than a few seasons when I have found it difficult to pray at all. I guess that is all part of the learning process when it comes to praying and connecting with God.

These days I don’t say very much to God and focus more on what he might be saying to me. I suppose you could call it listening prayer or contemplative prayer, but the process is the same. It involves being still, which can be quite difficult first thing in the morning when your mind is racing through all the things that have got to be done.

Contemplative prayer for me is not about emptying the mind, rather it is about engaging in the process of seeking to still my mind before God. It’s never quite the same each day as sometimes it seems easy but on other days I find it almost impossible. Occasionally I awake praising God and conscious of his presence, often just repeating his name over and over again. But on a normal day it involves more work in self-examination, confession, spiritual reading, and waiting on him in stillness and silence. I usually conclude my prayers with a few set prayers that I have committed to memory because they remind me to seek and to do the will of God in all the affairs of the day.

I don’t believe in formulas when it comes to prayer, for me it is a relational practice because God is my friend as well as my boss. My day is always lacking and often falls well below par if I am prevented from spending my early hours of the day with God. It’s never too late to start so I would encourage you to set aside a few minutes each morning to do what God has instructed ‘to be still and know that I am God.’

Rev. Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo

June 2021 God’s Garden

This summer I am continuing with the battle against the weeds in my garden. The strip of land on the outside of my fence between my house and the pavement has been a constant problem as it is prone to becoming infested with weeds. The brambles are prolific, but it is also fertile soil for the many different types of trees that self-seed from the surrounding woodland. Already this year I have invested a lot of time and energy in clearing the ground and breaking up the soil. However, the recent rains have initiated a resurgence of brambles that seem to grow at a phenomenal rate. I wish I had a time-lapse camera so that I could capture the growth of this most irrepressible of weeds.

I am not sure what the long-term solution is for this particular border and maybe I could take a cue from my neighbours who have put down gravel, woodchip or turf. The problem comes in the autumn with the large quantity of leaves that fall from the chestnut trees as well as the windfall from the adjacent forest in the country park. I am not a fan of weed killer if it can be avoided, so I would like to adopt a more organic and environmentally friendly approach. What I have decided to do for the moment is just to keep working on getting the roots of these weeds out of the soil, so that it is as free as possible from the recurrence of brambles. This of course will involve a lot more work and constant attention to this patch of ground, but I am convinced that whilst I won’t be able to completely eliminate the weeds, I can at least keep them out of the way.

As I have been working on this, I have been increasingly aware of the spiritual metaphor in Jesus’s parable of the sower. It was the weeds that choked and limited the growth of the word of God in their lives. The weeds represented things in their lives that were not necessarily bad but they took up space that was meant to be occupied by the fruit producing plants. If the fruit trees did eventually grow, their development was limited by the presence of the weeds. Rooting out the spiritual weeds in our lives is at the heart of Christian discipleship. This is the ongoing work of sanctification as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit who works within us to enable us to bear good and lasting fruit.

Rev. Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo