There are different methods, different techniques, to become more still and more focussed as you enter a time of prayer. Today, try being aware of the feelings you are experiencing in different parts of your body. Warmth or cold, the pressure of your clothing or an awareness of the air around you. Travel slowly from your head to your feet, and notice all the different sensations that you feel at this time.
After you have travelled round your body like this once or twice more, let your awareness slowly come to rest at some quiet place at the centre of yourself. Simply stay in that quiet stillness for a moment or two before we move on to hear the reading from the Prophet Hosea.
Hosea 2: 14 – 20
Therefore, I will now persuade her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
From there I will give her her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, ‘My husband’, and no longer will you call me, ‘My Baal’. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will take you for my wife for ever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.
In the bible translation we are using here, this passage starts with God “persuading” someone to come into the wilderness. Other translations speak of God “alluring” or “enticing”.
It’s clear that God is not using his power to compel here, but wants to attract his people to be with him. How does that fit with your experience of how God works with you?
Although the passage reflects on the relationship between God and God’s people Israel, the imagery used is that of reconciliation between a husband and wife. What might that tell you about how God deals with those he loves…with you?
The passage looks back to a time when this relationship was stronger, and expresses the hope that this can be restored. Can you recall a time when you felt that your own relationship with God was strong in this way? When you felt secure in it? Perhaps that’s where you find yourself now, or perhaps you, too, hope that your relationship might be restored.
Here, this relationship has four elements to it: righteousness, justice, steadfast love, and mercy. Which one of these seems most important to you today?
God is pictured here as inviting you into a wilderness, a quiet place, to reflect on your relationship with him. What’s your initial response to this invitation? Do you want to go? Do you accept the call that God is making?
There is certainly a note of regret in this passage, a looking back to a time when this relationship was better. Do you find yourself identifying with that at all? Try and speak openly with God for a moment or two about what that’s like.
More important than the regret, though, is the hope. God hopes for, and intends, to bring about a reconciliation. The relationship between God and his people, between God and you, will be even stronger than it was before. Speak with God about how it feels to hear that assurance.
The promise ends with a promise that “you shall know the Lord”. Tell God, as this time of prayer comes to an end, what it is that you most want to know about him in the days to come.