One of my predecessors, the Rev’d Coulson, founded the school of contemplative prayer which he ran from a prayer cell in the basement of the old Rectory in Stansted. When I first came here some of the older parishioners had clearly been positively impacted by his practice of being silent in prayer and meditation before God. He was very strict about silence in the church, before, during and after worship as people were not permitted to talk or chat at all in the church building. I remember one of his parishoners telling me that she saw herself as one of ‘the quiet of the land’ and she understood that her vocation was to pray in silence. This contemplative legacy was a very good thing which I didn’t really appreciate at the time but as I have continued in the spiritual life I have come to value this important tradition within the church. Like most of us who have been pursuing spiritual growth, I too have tried many ways and methods as I have sought to make prayer central to my life.
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. As with my contemplative predecessors, I have come to a place in prayer where I don’t say very much but focus more on what the Lord might be saying to me. I suppose you could call it listening prayer as much as contemplative prayer, but the process is much the same. 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 from day to day as sometimes it seems easy but on other days, I find it almost impossible.
Some days I awake conscious of the Lord’s presence but on a normal day its more of a cold start and that involves 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 as 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 the beginning of the day with God.
Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo