“Prayer is not so much a means of bringing God to see as we do, and to act as we desire, but rather giving opportunity to the Lord to carry out His great desires and purposes….rich opportunities [await] the soul that comes into line with the holy will of God, and has learnt the art of being awake to His delicate leadings” (Granger-Fleming 1914).
Soul Action believes prayer – especially the kind that encourages contemplative listening with others – is how one begins to mind the gap between faith and works. In both the Old and New Testament, God is described as leaving heaven to reveal His will to His people – initially as Wisdom, then as Jesus, and today through the Holy Spirit.
Listening to God with Others
Soul Action believes that space to connect with God with others is how one becomes more aware of God’s mission in relation to the poverty and potential that exists around us. Rather than skipping straight from faith into action, or worst still, getting stuck at some kind of theoretical faith without any action, Soul Action believes in facilitating opportunities to listen to what God is doing and saying through and to His people.
On a visit to South Africa, Bishop Graham Cray, Missioner to the Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York, issued the following ‘health warning’ to the church, “We must be careful not think we can simply take models of church and mission off the shelf. Rather than cloning, we ought to be listening to, and following, the Holy Spirit.” He added, that this “Invitation To Improvise!” is on offer to the church, community and / or network.
Contemplative in Action
“‘Contemplative in action’ is an Ignatian buzzword” (Manney 2009),  a way of describing and straddling the worlds of prayer and action. Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises is regarded as one of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written. With a small group of friends Loyala conceived the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits as ‘contemplatives in action.’ Barry (2008:85) explains how:
Ignatius’s contemplative in action [involves] a relationship with God. Engaging closely with God over time, we allow the Spirit to transform us into people who are more like the images of God we are created to be—that is, more like Jesus, who was clearly a contemplative in action.
Practice Makes Permanent
Soul Action believes in activities, tasks, strategies and initiative, but not without hearing the still small ‘voice’ of God. However good our intentions might be, unless we listen more, learn from, and join in with what God is doing, we act in vain. In an attempt to get in touch with, and deliberately reflect upon, the revelation of God, Soul Action practices contemplative prayer and informed action personally, as a staff team and with others. Although the ultimate aim is to hear God in the everydayness of life, practising God’s presence in stillness and space helps to make that possible. John Main, Benedictine Priory of Montreal founder said:
“The all-important aim…is to allow God’s mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality which gives meaning, shape and purpose to everything we do, to everything we are.”
For the first five minutes of silence people are encouraged to:
- Sit down, still and upright, comfortable and alert
- Close their eyes lightly; breathe calmly and regularly
- Silently, interiorly, say a single word, e .g. sha-lom, reciting two syllables of equal length as they breathe in-and-out
- Listen to the word as they say it, gently & continuously, but not to think or imagine anything – spiritual or otherwise
- If thoughts / images come, they’re to be regarded as distractions (if significant they’ll return in the second half of the prayer). People are to let them float away, and – for now – return to simply saying focusing on the word sha-lom
After the first five minutes of total silence, the Holy Spirit should then be invited to speak to people’s imagination either through words, Scripture, song, poetry and / or pictures – however God communicates with them best. It may not make sense at first – that’s OK, simply keep a note in a journal and over time themes will develop / emerge.
Try it Yourself
If you think you would find it helpful to practice this form of prayer, you can download a ‘Christian chime’ featuring five minutes of silence to rest and be, followed by five minutes of silence to ‘hear’ God – 5 silent 5 prayer
 Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)