A Short Method of Prayer
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Short Method Of Prayer And Spiritual
Torrents, by Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mot Guyon
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Title: A Short Method Of Prayer And Spiritual Torrents
Author: Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mot Guyon
Translator: A. W. Marston
Release Date: April 4, 2008 [EBook #24989]
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A SHORT METHOD OF PRAYER
J. M. B. DE LA MOTHE GUYON.
Translated from the Paris Edition of 1790
A. W. MARSTON.
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, LOW, & SEARLE,
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET.
[_All rights reserved._]
PRINTED BY BALLANTYNE AND COMPANY
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
_PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH PROTESTANT EDITION._
Some apology is perhaps needed when a Protestant thus brings
Protestant readers the works of a consistent Roman Catholic
plea must be, that the doctrine and experience described are
Protestant; and so far from their receiving the assent of the
Catholic Church, their author was persecuted for holding and
Of the experience of Madame Guyon, it should be borne in mind,
though the glorious heights of communion with God to which she
may be scaled by the feeblest of God's chosen ones, yet it is by
means necessary that they should be reached by the same apparently
arduous and protracted path along which she was led.
The "Torrents" especially needs to be regarded rather as an
the personal experience of the author, than as the plan which God
invariably, or even usually, adopts in bringing the soul into a
union with Himself. It is true that, in order that we may "live
righteousness," we must be "dead indeed unto sin;" and that there
be a crucifixion of self before the life of Christ can be made
in us. It is only when we can say, "I am crucified with Christ,"
are able to add, "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ
me." But it does not follow that this inward death must always be
lingering as in the case of Madame Guyon. She tells us herself
reason was, that she was not wholly resigned to the Divine will,
willing to be deprived of the gifts of God, that she might enjoy
possession of the Giver. This resistance to the will of God
suffering on the part of the creature, and chastisement on the
God, in order that He may subdue to Himself what is not
yielded to Him.
Of the joy of a complete surrender to God, it is not necessary to
here: thousands of God's children are realising its blessedness
themselves, and proving that it is no hardship, but a joy
to present themselves a living sacrifice to God, to live no longer
themselves, but to Him that died for them, and rose again.
A simple trust in a living, personal Saviour; a putting away by
grace of all that is known to be in opposition to His will; and an
entire self-abandonment to Him, that His designs may be worked out
and through us; such is the simple key to the hidden sanctuary of
_A SHORT METHOD OF PRAYER._
I. PRAYER POSSIBLE AT ALL TIMES, BY
II. FIRST DEGREE OF
III. SECOND DEGREE OF PRAYER, CALLED HERE THE
PRAYER OF SIMPLICITY 13
V. ABANDONMENT TO
X. HIGHER DEGREE OF PRAYER, THAT OF
THE SIMPLE PRESENCE OF GOD 30
XI. REST IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD--INWARD
AND OUTWARD SILENCE 35
XII. SELF-EXAMINATION AND
XIII. READING AND VOCAL
XIV. THE FAULTS AND TEMPTATIONS OF THIS
XV. PRAYER AND SACRIFICE EXPLAINED BY THE
SIMILITUDE OF A PERFUME 47
XVI. THIS STATE NOT ONE OF IDLENESS, BUT OF
XVII. DISTINCTION BETWEEN EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR
XVIII. EXHORTATIONS TO
XIX. PREPARATION FOR DIVINE
I. THE DIFFERENT WAYS IN WHICH
SOULS ARE LED TO SEEK AFTER GOD 91
II. OF THE FIRST WAY, WHICH IS ACTIVE AND
III. OF THE SECOND WAY, WHICH IS THE PASSIVE
WAY OF LIGHT 103
IV. OF THE THIRD WAY, WHICH IS THE
PASSIVE WAY OF FAITH,
AND OF ITS FIRST
V. IMPERFECTIONS OF THIS FIRST
VI. SECOND DEGREE OF THE PASSIVE WAY OF
VII. SECT. I.--COMMENCEMENT OF THE THIRD DEGREE
OF THE PASSIVE
WAY OF FAITH--FIRST DEGREE OF THE SPOLIATION OF THE SOUL 151
DEGREE OF THE SPOLIATION OF THE
IV.--ENTRANCE INTO MYSTICAL
VIII. THIRD DEGREE OF THE PASSIVE WAY OF FAITH, IN
IX. FOURTH DEGREE OF THE PASSIVE WAY OF
FAITH, WHICH IS THE
COMMENCEMENT OF THE DIVINE
I. MORE PARTICULAR DESCRIPTION OF
SEVERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF
II. STABILITY, EXPERIENCE, ELEVATION, AND
EXTREME PURITY OF THE
III. PERFECT UNION OR
IV. ACTIONS AND SUFFERINGS OF THOSE IN A
STATE OF UNION WITH GOD 240
_A SHORT METHOD OF PRAYER._
"Walk before me, and be thou perfect."--Gen. xvii. 1.
I did not write this little work with the thought of its being
the public. It was prepared for the help of a few Christians who
desirous of loving God with the whole heart. But so many have
copies of it, because of the benefit they have derived from its
that I have been asked to publish it.
I have left it in its natural simplicity. I do not condemn the
of any: on the contrary, I esteem those which are held by others,
submit all that I have written to the censure of persons of
and learning. I only ask of all that they will not be content with
examining the outside, but that they will penetrate the design of
writer, which is only to lead others to LOVE GOD, and to serve Him
greater happiness and success, by enabling them to do it in a
easy way, fit for the little ones who are not capable of
things, but who truly desire to _give themselves to God_.
I ask all who may read it, to read without prejudice; and they
discover, under common expressions, a hidden unction, which will
them to seek for a happiness which all ought to expect to possess.
I use the word _facility_, saying that perfection is easy, because
easy to find God, _when we seek Him within ourselves_. The passage
be quoted which says, "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me"
vii. 34). Yet this need not occasion any difficulty; because the
God, who cannot contradict Himself, has said, "He that seeketh
(Matt. vii. 8). _He who seeks God, and who yet is unwilling to
sin, will not find Him, because he is seeking Him where He cannot
found_; therefore it is added, "Ye shall die in your sins." _But
sincerely desires to forsake sin, that he may draw near to God,
find Him infallibly_.
Many people imagine religion so frightful, and prayer so
that they are not willing to strive after them, never expecting to
attain to them. But as the difficulty which we see in a thing
to despair of succeeding in it, and at the same time removes the
to undertake it; and as, when a thing appears both desirable and
be attained, we give ourselves to it with pleasure, and pursue it
boldly; I have been constrained to set forth the advantage and the
_facility_ of this way.
Oh! if we were persuaded of the goodness of God toward His poor
creatures, and of the desire which He has to communicate Himself
them, we should not imagine so many obstacles, and despair so
obtaining a good which He is so infinitely desirous of imparting
And if He has not spared His own Son, but delivered Him up for us
is there anything He can refuse us? Assuredly not. We only need a
courage and perseverance. We have so much of both for trifling
interests, and we have none for the "_one thing needful_."
As for those who find a difficulty in believing that it is easy to
God in this way, let them not believe all that they are told, but
let them make trial of it, that they may judge for themselves; and
will find that I say very little in comparison with that which is.
Dear reader, study this little work with a simple and sincere
with lowliness of mind, without wishing to criticise it, and you
find it of good to you. Receive it with the same spirit as that in
it is given, which is no other than the longing that you may be
_give yourself unreservedly to God_. My desire is that it may be
means of leading the simple ones and the children to their Father,
loves their humble confidence, and to whom distrust is so
Seek nothing but _the love of God_; have a sincere desire for your
salvation, and you will assuredly find it, following this little
I do not pretend to elevate my sentiments above those of others,
relate simply what has been my own experience as well as that of
others, and the advantage which I have found in this simple and
manner of going to God.
If this book treats of nothing else but the _short and easy method
prayer_, it is because, being written only for that, it cannot
other things. It is certain that, if it be read in the spirit in
it has been written, there will be found nothing in it to shock
mind. Those who will make the experience of it will be the most
of the truth which it contains.
It is to Thee, O Holy Child Jesus, who lovest simplicity and
and who findest Thy delight in the children of men, that is to
those amongst men who are willing to become children;--it is to
say, to give worth and value to this little work, impressing it on
heart, and leading those who read it to seek Thee within
where Thou wilt take Thy rest, receiving the tokens of their love,
giving them proofs of Thine.
It is Thy work, O Divine Child! O uncreated Love! O silent Word!
Thyself beloved, tasted, and heard. Thou art able to do it; and I
dare to say that Thou wilt do it, by means of this little work,
all to Thee, all of Thee, and all for Thee.
A SHORT METHOD OF PRAYER.
ALL ARE COMMANDED TO PRAY--PRAYER THE GREAT MEANS OF SALVATION,
POSSIBLE AT ALL TIMES BY THE MOST SIMPLE.
Prayer is nothing else but the _application of the heart to God_,
the interior exercise of love. St Paul commands us to "pray
ceasing" (1 Thess. v. 17). Our Lord says: "Take ye heed, watch and
pray." "And what I say unto you, I say unto all" (Mark xiii. 33,
All, then, are capable of prayer, and it is the duty of all to
But I do not think that all are fit for meditation; and,
is not that sort of prayer which God demands or desires of them.
My dear friends, whoever you may be, who desire to be saved, come
God in prayer. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the
thou mayest be rich" (Rev. iii. 18). It is easily to be obtained,
more easily than you could ever imagine.
Come, all ye that are athirst, and take this water of life freely
Rev. xxii. 17). Do not amuse yourselves by hewing out to
"broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer. ii. 13). Come,
souls, who find nothing that can satisfy you, and you shall be
Come, poor afflicted ones, weighed down with griefs and sorrows,
shall be comforted. Come, sick ones, to the great Physician, and
fear to approach Him because you are so weak and diseased: expose
your diseases to Him, and they shall be healed.
Come, children, to your Father; He will receive you with open arms
love. Come, wandering and scattered sheep, to your Shepherd. Come,
sinners, to your Saviour. Come, ignorant and foolish ones, who
yourselves incapable of prayer; it is you who are the most fitted
it. Come all without exception; Jesus Christ calls you all.
Let those only refuse to come who have no heart. The invitation is
for them; for we must have a heart in order to love. But who is
without heart? Oh, come and give that heart to God, and learn in
place of prayer how to do it! All those who long for prayer are
of it, who have ordinary grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit,
freely promised to all who ask it.
Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is
efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all
virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence
God. He tells us this Himself: "Walk before me, and be thou
(Gen. xvii. 1). Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and
you there continually.
What we need, then, is an attitude of prayer, in which we can
_constantly_ abide, and out of which exterior occupations cannot
us; a prayer which can be offered alike by princes, kings,
magistrates, soldiers, children, artisans, labourers, women, and
sick. This prayer is not mental, but _of the heart_.
It is not a prayer of thought alone, because the mind of man is so
limited, that while it is occupied with one thing it cannot be
of another. But it is the PRAYER OF THE HEART, which cannot be
interrupted by the occupations of the mind. Nothing can interrupt
prayer of the heart but unruly affections; and when once we have
of the love of God, it is impossible to find our delight in
Nothing is easier than to have God and to live upon Him. He is
truly in us than we are in ourselves. He is more anxious to give
to us than we are to possess Him. All that we want is to know the
seek Him, which is so easy and so natural, that breathing itself
Oh, you who imagine yourselves incapable of religious feeling, you
live in prayer and in God as easily and as continuously as you
the air you breathe. Will you not, then, be inexcusable if you
to do it, after you have learned the way?
FIRST DEGREE OF PRAYER--MEDITATION AND MEDITATIVE READING--THE
PRAYER--PASSAGE FROM THE FIRST DEGREE TO THE SECOND.
There are two means by which we may be led into the higher forms
prayer. One is _Meditation_, the other is _Meditative Reading_. By
meditative reading I mean the taking of some truths, either
practical--the latter rather than the former--and reading them in
way:--Take the truth which has presented itself to you, and read
three lines, seeking to enter into the full meaning of the words,
on no further so long as you find satisfaction in them; leave the
only when it becomes insipid. After that, take another passage,
the same, not reading more than half a page at once.
It is not so much from the amount read that we derive profit, as
the manner of reading. Those people who get through so much do not
profit from it; the bees can only draw the juice from the flowers
resting on them, not by flying round them. Much reading is more
scholastic than for spiritual science; but in order to derive
from spiritual books, we should read them in this way; and I am
that this manner of reading accustoms us gradually to prayer, and
us a deeper desire for it. The other way is _Meditation_, in which
should engage at a chosen time, and not in the hour given to
think the way to enter into it is this:--After having brought
into the presence of God by a definite act of faith, we should
something substantial, not so much to reason upon it, as to fix
attention, observing that the principal exercise should be the
of God, and that the subject should rather fix the attention than
This _faith in the presence of God within our hearts_ must lead us
enter within ourselves, collecting our thoughts, and preventing
wandering; this is an effectual way of getting rid of distracting
thoughts, and of losing sight of outward things, in order to draw
to God, who can only be found in the secret place of our hearts,
is the _sancta-sanctorum_ in which He dwells.
He has promised that if any one keeps His commandments, He will
him, and _make His abode_ with him (John xiv. 23). St Augustine
reproaches himself for the time he lost through not having sought
first in this way.
When, then, we are thus buried in ourselves, and deeply penetrated
the presence of God within us--when the senses are all drawn from
circumference to the centre, which, though it is not easily
at first, becomes quite natural afterwards--when the soul is thus
gathered up within itself, and is sweetly occupied with the truth
not in reasoning upon it, but in feeding upon it, and exciting the
by the affection rather than the understanding by consideration:
_affection_ being thus touched, must be suffered to _repose_
at peace, _swallowing_ what it has tasted.
As a person who only masticated an excellent meat would not be
by it, although he would be sensible of its taste, unless he
movement in order to swallow it; so when the affection is stirred,
seek continually to stir it, we extinguish its fire, and thus
the soul of its nourishment. We must swallow by a _loving repose_
of respect and confidence) what we have masticated and tasted.
method is very necessary, and would advance the soul in a short
more than any other would do in several years.
But as I said that the direct and principal exercise should be the
_sense of the presence of God_, we must most faithfully _recall
senses_ when they wander.
This is a short and efficacious way of fighting with distractions;
because those who endeavour directly to oppose them, irritate and
increase them; but by losing ourselves in the thought of a present
and suffering our thoughts to be drawn to Him, we combat them
indirectly, and without thinking of them, but in an effectual
And here let me warn beginners not to run from one truth to
from one subject to another; but to keep themselves to one so long
they feel a taste for it: this is the way to enter deeply into
to taste them, and to have them impressed upon us. I say it is
at first thus to retire within ourselves, because of the habits,
are natural to us, of being taken up with the outside; but when we
little accustomed to it, it becomes exceedingly easy; both because
have formed the habit of it, and because God, who only desires to
communicate Himself to us, sends us abundant grace, and an
sense of His presence, which renders it easy.
Let us apply this method to the Lord's Prayer. We say "Our
thinking that God is within us, and will indeed be our Father.
having pronounced this word _Father_, we remain a few moments in
silence, waiting for this heavenly Father to make known His will
Then we ask this King of Glory _to reign_ within us, abandoning
ourselves to Him, that He may do it, and yielding to Him the right
He has over us. If we feel here an inclination to peace and
should not continue, but remain thus so long as the condition may
after which we proceed to the second petition, "Thy will be done
earth, as it is in heaven." We then desire that God may
us and by us, all His will; we give up to God our heart and our
that He may dispose of them at His pleasure. Then, seeing that the
occupation of the will should be love, we desire to love, and we
to give us _His love_. But all this is done quietly, peacefully;
on with the rest of the prayer.
At other times we hold ourselves in the position of sheep near to
Shepherd, asking of Him our true food. O Divine Shepherd! Thou
Thy sheep with Thine own hand, and Thou art their food from day to
We may also bring before Him our family desires; but it must all
with the remembrance by faith of the presence of God within us.
We can form no imagination of what God is: a lively faith in His
presence is sufficient; for we can conceive no image of God,
may of Christ, regarding Him as crucified, or as a child, or in
other condition, provided that we always seek Him within
At other times we come to Him as to a Physician, bringing our
to Him that He may heal them; but always without effort, with a
silence from time to time, that the silence may be mingled with
action, gradually lengthening the silence and shortening the
prayer, until at length, as we yield to the operation of God, He
the supremacy. When the presence of God is given, and the soul
taste of silence and repose, this experimental sense of the
God introduces it to the second degree of prayer.
SECOND DEGREE OF PRAYER, CALLED HERE "THE PRAYER OF SIMPLICITY."
The second degree has been variously termed _Contemplation_, _The
of Silence_, and _of repose_; while others again have called it
_Prayer of Simplicity_; and it is of this last term that I shall
use here, being more appropriate than that of _Contemplation_,
signifies a degree of prayer more advanced than that of which I
After a time, as I have said, the soul becomes sensible of a
recognising the presence of God; it collects itself more easily;
becomes natural and pleasant; it knows that it leads to God; and
perceives the smell of His perfumes.
Then it must change its method, and observe carefully what I am
say, without being astonished at its apparent implausibility.
First of all, when you bring yourself into the presence of God by
remain a short time in an attitude of respectful silence. If from
beginning, in making this act of faith, you are sensible of a
taste of the presence of God, remain as you are without troubling
yourself on any subject, and keep that which has been given you,
as it may remain.
If it leaves you, excite your will by means of some tender
and if you then find that your former state of peace has returned,
remain in it. The fire must be blown softly, and as soon as it is
lighted, cease to blow it, or you will put it out. It is also
that you should go to God, not so much to obtain something from
to please Him, and to do His will; for a servant who only serves
master in proportion to the recompense he receives, is unworthy of
Go, then, to prayer, not only to enjoy God, but to be as He wills:
will keep you equal in times of barrenness and in times of
and you will not be dismayed by the repulses of God, nor by His
ON SPIRITUAL DRYNESS.
As God's only desire is to give Himself to the loving soul who
to seek Him, He often hides Himself in order to arouse it, and
to seek Him with love and fidelity. But how does He reward the
faithfulness of His beloved! And how are His apparent flights
by loving caresses!
The soul imagines that it is a proof of its fidelity and of its
increased love that it seeks God with an effort, or that at least
seeking will soon lead to His return.
But no! This is not the way in this degree. With a loving
with deep humility and abasement, with an affection deep and yet
restful, with a respectful silence, you must await the return of
You will thus show Him that it is _Himself_ alone that you love,
good pleasure, and not the pleasure that you find in loving Him.
Therefore it is said, "Make not haste in time of trouble. Cleave
Him, and depart not away, that thou mayest be increased at thy
(Ecclus. ii. 2, 3). Suffer the suspensions and the delays of the
consolations of God.
Be patient in prayer, even though you should do nothing all your
but wait in patience, with a heart humbled, abandoned, resigned,
content for the return of your Beloved. Oh, excellent prayer! How
moves the heart of God, and obliges Him to return more than
ABANDONMENT TO GOD--ITS FRUIT AND ITS IRREVOCABILITY--IN WHAT IT
CONSISTS--GOD EXHORTS US TO IT.
It is here that true _abandonment_ and consecration to God should
commence, by our being deeply convinced that all which happens to
moment by moment is the will of God, and therefore all that is
This conviction will render us contented with everything, and will
us see the commonest events in God, and not in the creature.
I beg of you, whoever you may be, who are desirous of giving
to God, not to take yourselves back when once you are given to
to remember that a thing once given away is no longer at your
_Abandonment_ is the key to the inner life: he who is thoroughly
abandoned will soon be perfect.
You must, then, hold firmly to your abandonment, without listening
reason or to reflection. A great faith makes a great abandonment;
must trust wholly in God, against hope believing in hope (Rom. iv.
_Abandonment_ is the casting off of all care of ourselves, to
ourselves to be guided entirely by God.
All Christians are exhorted to abandonment, for it is said to all,
no thought for the morrow; for your Heavenly Father knoweth that
need of all these things" (Matt. vi. 32, 34). "In all thy ways
acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Prov. iii. 6).
thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established"
xvi. 3). "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He
bring it to pass" (Ps. xxxvii. 5).
Abandonment, then, ought to be an utter leaving of ourselves, both
outwardly and inwardly, in the hands of God, forgetting ourselves,
thinking only of God. By this means the heart is kept always free
Practically it should be a continual loss of our own will in the
of God, a renunciation of all natural inclinations, however good
may appear, in order that we may be left free to choose only as
chooses: we should be indifferent to all things, whether temporal
spiritual, for the body or the soul; leaving the past in
the future to providence, and giving the present to God; contented
the present moment, which brings with it God's eternal will for
attributing nothing which happens to us to the creature, but
things in God, and regarding them as coming infallibly from His
with the exception only of our own sin.
Leave yourselves, then, to be guided by God as He will, whether as
regards the inner or the outward life.
OF SUFFERING WHICH MUST BE ACCEPTED AS FROM GOD--ITS FRUITS.
Be content with all the suffering that God may lay upon you. If
love Him purely, you will be as willing to follow Him to Calvary
He must be loved as much on Calvary as on Tabor, since it is there
He makes the greatest manifestation of His love.
Do not act, then, like those people who give themselves at one
take themselves back at another. They give themselves to be
and take themselves back when they are crucified; or else they
consolation in the creature.
You can only find consolation in the love of the cross and in
abandonment. He who has no love for the cross has no love for God
Matt. xvi. 24). It is impossible to love God without loving the
and a heart which has learned to love the cross finds sweetness,
and pleasure even in the bitterest things. "To the hungry soul
bitter thing is sweet" (Prov. xxvii. 7), because it is as hungry
cross as it is hungry for God.
The cross gives God, and God gives the cross. Abandonment and the
go together. As soon as you are sensible that something is
you which presents itself to you in the light of suffering,
yourself at once to God for that very thing, and present yourself
sacrifice to Him: you will see that, when the cross comes, it will
lost much of its weight, because you will desire it. This will not
prevent your being sensible of its weight. Some people imagine
is not suffering to feel the cross. The feeling of suffering is
the principal parts of suffering itself. Jesus Himself was willing
suffer it in its intensity.
Often the cross is borne with weakness, at other times with
all should be equal in the will of God.
ON MYSTERIES--GOD GIVES THEM HERE IN REALITY.
It will be objected that, by this way, mysteries will not be made
It is just the contrary; they are given to the soul in reality.
Christ, to whom it is abandoned, and whom it follows as the _Way_,
it hears as the _Truth_, and who animates it as the _Life_,
Himself upon it, imparts to it His own condition.
To bear the conditions of Christ is something far greater than
consider those conditions. Paul bore the conditions of Christ on
body. "I bear in my body," he says, "the marks of the Lord Jesus"
vi. 17). But he does not say that he reasoned about them.
Often Christ gives in this state of abandonment views of His
in a striking manner. We must receive equally all the dispositions
which He may be pleased to place us, choosing for ourselves to
near to Him, and to be annihilated before Him, but receiving
that He gives us, light or darkness, facility or barrenness,
weakness, sweetness or bitterness, temptations or distractions,
care, uncertainty; none of these things ought to move us.
There are some persons to whom God is continually revealing His
mysteries: let them be faithful to them. But when God sees fit to
them, let them suffer them to be taken.
Others are troubled because no mysteries are made known to them:
needless, since a loving attention to God includes all particular
devotion, and that which is united to God alone, by its rest in
instructed in a most excellent manner in all mysteries. He who
loves all that is of Him.
ON VIRTUE--ALL VIRTUES GIVEN WITH GOD IN THIS DEGREE OF THE PRAYER
This is the short and the sure way of acquiring virtue; because,
being the principle of all virtue, we possess all virtue in
More than this, I say that all virtue which is not given inwardly
mask of virtue, and like a garment that can be taken off, and will
out. But virtue communicated fundamentally is essential, true, and
permanent. "The King's daughter is all glorious within" (Ps. xlv.
And there are none who practise virtue more constantly than those
acquire it in this way, though virtue is not a distinct subject of
How hungry these loving ones are after suffering! They think only
what can please their Beloved, and they begin to neglect
to think less of themselves. The more they love God, the more they
Oh, if all could learn this method, so easy that it is suited for
for the most ignorant as for the most learned, how easily the
Church would be reformed! You only need to love. St Augustine
"Love, and do as you please;" for when we love perfectly, we shall
desire to do anything that could be displeasing to our Beloved.
OF PERFECT CONVERSION, WHICH IS AN EFFECT OF THIS METHOD OF
OF ITS AIDS, THE ATTRACTION OF GOD, AND THE CENTRAL INCLINATION OF
"Turn ye unto Him from whom the children of Israel have deeply
(Isa. xxxi. 6). Conversion is nothing else but a turning from the
creature to God. Conversion is not perfect, though it is necessary
salvation, when it is merely a turning from sin to grace. To be
complete, it must be a turning from without to within.
The soul, being turned in the direction of God, has a great
remaining converted to Him. The longer it is converted, the nearer
approaches to God, and attaches itself to Him; and the nearer it
approaches to God, the more it becomes necessarily drawn from the
creature, which is opposed to God.
But this cannot be done by a violent effort of the creature; all
can do is to remain turned in the direction of God in a perpetual
God has an _attracting virtue_, which draws the soul more strongly
towards Himself; and in attracting it, He purifies it: as we see
attracting a dense vapour, and gradually, without any other effort
the part of the vapour than that of letting itself be drawn, the
bringing it near to himself, refines and purifies it.
There is, however, this difference, that the vapour is not drawn
and does not follow willingly, as is the case with the soul.
This manner of turning within is very simple, and makes the soul
naturally and without effort; because God is its centre. The
always a strong attractive power; and the larger the centre, the
stronger is its attractive force.
Besides this attraction of the centre, there is given to all
objects a strong tendency to become united with their centre. As
anything is turned in the direction of its centre, unless it be
by some invincible obstacle, it rushes towards it with extreme
velocity. A stone in the air is no sooner let loose, and turned
the earth, than it tends to it by its own weight as its centre. It
the same with fire and water, which, being no longer arrested, run
incessantly towards their centre.
Now I say that the soul, by the effort it has made in inward
recollection, being turned towards its centre, without any other
but simply by the weight of love, falls towards its centre; and
it remains quiet and at rest, making no movement of its own, the
rapidly it will advance, because it thus allows that attractive
to draw it.
All the care, then, that we need have is to promote this inward
recollection as much as possible, not being astonished at the
we may find in this exercise, which will soon be recompensed with
wonderful co-operation on the part of God, which will render it
easy. When the passions rise, a look towards God, who is present
us, easily deadens them. Any other resistance would irritate
HIGHER DEGREE OF PRAYER, WHICH IS THAT OF THE SIMPLE PRESENCE OF
The soul, faithfully exercising itself in the affection and love
God, is astonished to find Him taking complete possession of it.
His presence becomes so natural, that it would be impossible not
it: it becomes habitual to the soul, which is also conscious of a
calm spreading over it. Its prayer is all silence, and God imparts
an intrinsic love, which is the commencement of ineffable
Oh, if I could describe the infinite degrees which follow! But I
stop here, since I am writing for beginners, and wait till God
bring to light what may be useful to those more advanced. I can
say, that, at this point, it is most important that all natural
operation should cease, that God may act alone: "Be still, and
I am God," is His own word by David (Ps. xlvi. 10).
1. This subject is pursued in the treatise entitled
But man is so attached to his own works, that he cannot believe
working, unless he can feel, know, and distinguish His operation.
does not see that it is the speed of his course which prevents his
seeing the extent of his advancement; and that the operation of
becoming more abundant, absorbs that of the creature, as we see
sun, in proportion as he rises, absorbs the light of the stars,
were easily distinguishable before he appeared. It is not the want
light, but an excess of light, which prevents our distinguishing
It is the same here; man can no longer distinguish his own
because the strong light absorbs all his little distinct lights,
makes them fade away entirely, because God's excess surpasses them
So that those who accuse this degree of prayer of being a state of
_idleness_, are greatly deceived; and only speak thus from want of
experience. Oh, if they would only prove it! in how short a time
would become experimentally acquainted with this matter!
I say, then, that this failure of work does not spring from
but from abundance.
Two classes of persons are silent: the one because they have
say, the other because they have too much. It is thus in this
are silent from excess, not from want.
Water causes death to two persons in very different ways. One dies
thirst, another is drowned: the one dies from want, the other from
abundance. So here it is abundance which causes the cessation of
operation. It is therefore important in this degree to remain as
possible in stillness.
At the commencement of this prayer, a movement of affection is
necessary; but when grace begins to flow into us, we have nothing
but to remain at rest, and take all that God gives. Any other
would prevent our profiting by this grace, which is given in order
draw us into the _rest of love_.
The soul in this peaceful attitude of prayer falls into a mystic
in which all its natural powers are silenced, until that which had
temporary becomes its permanent condition. You see that the soul
thus led, without effort, without study, without artifice.
The heart is not a fortified place, which must be taken by
and violence: it is a kingdom of peace, which is possessed by
Gently following in His train, you will soon reach the degree of
_intuitive_ prayer. God asks nothing extraordinary and difficult:
contrary, He is most pleased with childlike simplicity.
The grandest part of religion is the most simple. It is the same
natural things. Do you wish to get to the sea? Embark upon a
insensibly and without effort you will be taken to it. Do you wish
get to God? Take His way, so quiet, so easy, and in a little while
will be taken to Him in a manner that will surprise you. Oh, if
would try it! How soon you would see that I am telling you only
little, and that the experience would far surpass any description
could be given! What do you fear? Why do you not throw yourself at
into the arms of Love, who only stretched them out upon the cross
order to take you in? What risk can there be in trusting God, and
abandoning yourself to Him? Oh, He will not deceive you, unless it
giving you far more than you ever expected: while those who expect
everything from themselves may well take to themselves the
which God utters by the mouth of Isaiah: "Thou art wearied in the
greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope" (Isa.
OF REST IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD--ITS FRUITS--INWARD SILENCE--GOD
The soul, being brought to this place, needs no other preparation
that of repose: for _the presence of God_ during the day, which is
great result of prayer, or rather prayer itself, begins to be
_intuitive_ and _almost continual_. The soul is conscious of a
inward happiness, and feels that God is in it more truly than it
itself. It has only one thing to do in order to find God, which is
retire within itself. As soon as the eyes are closed, it finds
It is astonished at this infinite happiness; there is carried on
it a conversation which outward things cannot interrupt. It might
said of this method of prayer, as was said of Wisdom, "All good
together come to me with her" (Wisdom of Solomon vii. 11), for
flows naturally into the soul, and is practised so easily, that it
to be quite natural to it. It has within it a germ of life and
fruitfulness, which gives it a facility for all good, and an
insensibility to all evil. Let it then remain faithful, and seek
other frame of mind than that of simple rest. It has only to
itself to be filled with this divine effusion.
"The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence
Him" (Hab. ii. 20). The reason why inward silence is so necessary
that Christ, being the eternal and essential Word, in order that
be received into the soul, there must be a disposition
with what He is. Now it is certain that in order to receive words
must listen. Hearing is the sense given to enable us to receive
words which are communicated to us. Hearing is rather a passive
active sense, receiving, and not communicating. Christ being the
which is to be communicated, the soul must be attentive to this
which speaks within it.
This is why we are so often exhorted to listen to God, and to be
attentive to His voice. Many passages might be quoted. I will be
content to mention a few: "Hearken unto me, O my people; and give
unto me, O my nation" (Isa. li. 4). "Hearken unto me, O house of
and all the remnant of the house of Israel" (Isa. xlvi. 31).
daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine
people, and thy father's house; so shall the King greatly desire
beauty" (Ps. xlv. 10, 11).
We must _listen_ to God, and be attentive to Him, _forgetting
and all self-interest. These two actions, or rather passions--for
condition is essentially a passive one--arouse in God a "desire"
the "beauty" He has Himself communicated.
Outward silence is extremely necessary for the cultivation of
silence, and it is impossible to acquire inward silence without
love for silence and solitude.
God tells us by the mouth of His prophet, "I will allure her, and
her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart" (marginal reading
Hosea ii. 14).
To be inwardly occupied with God, and outwardly occupied with
trifles, this is impossible.
It will be a small matter to pray, and to retire within ourselves
half an hour or an hour, if we do not retain the unction and the
of prayer during the day.
SELF-EXAMINATION AND CONFESSION.
Self-examination should always precede confession. Those who
this degree should expose themselves to God, who will not fail to
enlighten them, and to make known to them the nature of their
This examination must be conducted in peace and tranquillity,
more from God than from our own research the knowledge of our
When we examine ourselves with an effort, we easily make mistakes.
"call evil good, and good evil;" and self-esteem easily deceives
when we remain exposed to the searching gaze of God, that Divine
brings to light even the smallest atoms. We must then, for
self-examination, abandon ourselves utterly to God.
When we are in this degree of prayer, God is not slow to reveal to
all the faults we commit. We have no sooner sinned than we feel a
It is God Himself who conducts an examination which nothing
we have only to turn towards God, and suffer the pain and the
which He gives. As this examination by God is continual, we can no
longer examine ourselves; and if we are faithful to our
God, we shall soon be better examined by the divine light than we
be by all our own efforts. Experience will make this known. One
which often causes astonishment to the soul is, that when it is
conscious of a sin, and comes to confess it to God, instead of
regret and contrition, such as it formerly felt, a sweet and
takes possession of it.
Not having experienced this before, it supposes that it ought to
itself out of this condition to make a definite act of contrition.
it does not see that, by doing this, it would lose true
which is this _intuitive love_, infinitely greater than anything
could create for itself. It is a higher action, which includes the
others, with greater perfection, though these are not possessed
We should not seek to do anything for ourselves when God acts more
excellently in us and for us. It is hating sin as God hates it to
it in this way. This love, which is the operation of God in the
the purest of all love. All we have to do then is to remain as we
Another remarkable thing is, that we often forget our faults, and
it difficult to remember them; but this must not trouble us, for
reasons: The first, that this very forgetfulness is a proof that
has been atoned for, and it is better to forget all that concerns
ourselves, that we may remember God alone. The second reason is,
God does not fail, whenever confession is needful, to show to the
its greatest faults, for then it is He Himself who examines it.
ON READING--VOCAL PRAYER--REQUESTS.
The proper manner of reading in this degree is, as soon as we feel
attracted to meditation, to cease reading, and remain at rest.
The soul is no sooner called to inward silence, than it should
utter vocal prayers; saying but little at any time, and when it
them, if it finds any difficulty, or feels itself drawn to
should remain silent, and make no effort to pray, leaving itself
guidance of the Spirit of God.
The soul will find that it cannot, as formerly, present definite
requests to God. This need not surprise it, for it is now that
Spirit maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will
The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we
pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession
with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. viii. 26, 27).
We must second the designs of God, which are to strip the soul of
own works, to substitute His in their place.
Let Him work then, and bind yourself to nothing of your own.
good it may appear to you, it cannot be so if it comes in the way
God's will for you. The will of God is preferable to all other
Seek not your own interests, but live by abandonment and by faith.
It is here that _faith_ begins to operate wonderfully in the soul.
THE FAULTS COMMITTED IN THIS DEGREE--DISTRACTIONS,
COURSE TO BE PURSUED RESPECTING THEM.
As soon as we fall into a fault, or have wandered, we must turn
within ourselves; because this fault having turned us from God, we
should as soon as possible turn towards Him, and suffer the
which He Himself will give.
It is of great importance that we should not be anxious about
faults, because the anxiety only springs from a secret pride and a
of our own excellence. We are troubled at feeling what we are.
If we become discouraged, we shall grow weaker yet; and reflection
our faults produces a vexation which is worse than the sin itself.
A truly humble soul does not marvel at its weakness, and the more
perceives its wretchedness, the more it abandons itself to God,
seeks to remain near to Him, knowing how deeply it needs His help.
God's own word to us is, "I will instruct thee, and teach thee in
way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye" (Ps.
In distractions or temptations, instead of combating them
which would only serve to augment them, and to wean us from God,
whom alone we ought to be occupied, we should simply turn away
them, and draw nearer to God; as a little child, seeing a fierce
approaching it, would not stay to fight it, nor even to look at
would run for shelter to its mother's arms, where it would be
is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved: God shall help
that right early" (Ps. xlvi. 5).
If we adopt any other course of action, if we attempt to attack
enemies in our weakness, we shall be wounded, even if we are not
entirely defeated; but remaining in the simple presence of God, we
ourselves immediately fortified.
This was what David did: he says, "I have set the Lord always
because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my
heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in
hope." It is also said by Moses, "The Lord shall fight for you,
shall hold your peace" (Exod. xiv. 14).
PRAYER AND SACRIFICE EXPLAINED BY THE SIMILITUDE OF A PERFUME--OUR
ANNIHILATION IN THIS SACRIFICE--SOLIDITY AND FRUITFULNESS OF THIS
AS SET FORTH IN THE GOSPEL.
Prayer ought to be both petition and sacrifice.
Prayer, according to the testimony of St John, is an incense,
perfume rises to God. Therefore it is said in the Revelation
viii. 3), that an angel held a censer, which contained the incense
the prayers of saints.
Prayer is an outpouring of the heart in the presence of God. "I
poured out my soul before the Lord," said the mother of Samuel (1
i. 15). Thus the prayers of the Magi at the feet of the infant
the stable of Bethlehem were signified by the incense which they
Prayer is the heat of love, which melts and dissolves the soul,
carries it to God. In proportion as it melts, it gives out its
and this odour comes from the love which burns it.
This is what the Bride meant when she said, "While the King
His table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof" (Cant. i.
The table is the heart. When God is there, and we are kept near to
in His presence, this presence of God melts and dissolves the
of our hearts, and as they melt, they give forth their perfume.
Therefore the Bridegroom, seeing His Bride thus melted by the
her Beloved, says, "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness,
perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?" (Cant. iii. 6).
Thus the soul rises up towards its God. But in order to this, it
suffer itself to be destroyed and annihilated by the force of
is a state of _sacrifice_ essential to the Christian religion, by
the soul suffers itself to be destroyed and annihilated to render
to the sovereignty of God; as it is written, "The power of the
great, and He is honoured of the lowly" (Ecclus. iii. 20). And the
destruction of our own being confesses the sovereign being of God.
We must cease to be, so that the Spirit of the Word may be in us.
order that He may come to us, we must yield our life to Him, and
self that He may live in us, and that we being dead, our life may
hidden with Christ in God (Col. iii. 3).
"Come unto me," says God, "all ye that be desirous of me, and fill
yourselves with my fruits" (Ecclus. xxiv. 19). But how can we be
with God? Only by being emptied of self, and going out of
order to be lost in Him.
Now, this can never be brought about except by our becoming
Nothingness is true prayer, which renders to God "honour, and
power, for ever and ever" (Rev. v. 13).
This prayer is the prayer of truth. It is worshipping the Father
spirit and in truth. In _spirit_, because we are by it drawn out
human and carnal action, to enter into the purity of the Spirit,
prays in us; and in _truth_, because the soul is led into the
the ALL of God, and the NOTHING of the creature.
There are but these two truths, the ALL and the NOTHING. All the
We can only honour the ALL of God by our NOTHINGNESS; and we have
sooner become nothing, than God, who will not suffer us to be
fills us with Himself. Oh, if all knew the blessings which come to
soul by this prayer, they would be satisfied with no others: it is
pearl of great price; it is the hidden treasure. He who finds it
sells all that he has to buy it (Matt. xiii. 44, 46). It is the
living water, which springs up into everlasting life (John iv.
is the practice of the pure maxims of the gospel.
Does not Christ Himself tell us that the kingdom of God is within
(Luke xvii. 21). This kingdom is set up in two ways. The first is,
God is so thoroughly master of us that nothing resists Him: then
heart is truly His kingdom. The other way is, that by possessing
who is the sovereign Lord, we possess the kingdom of God, which is
height of felicity, and the end for which we were created. As it
been said, _to serve God is to reign_.
The end for which we were created is to enjoy God in this life,
do not believe it!
THIS STATE OF PRAYER NOT ONE OF IDLENESS, BUT OF NOBLE ACTION,
BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, AND IN DEPENDENCE UPON HIM--THE
HIS LIFE AND UNION.
Some people, hearing of the prayer of silence, have wrongly
that the soul remains _inactive_, _lifeless_, and _without
But the truth is, that its action is more noble and more extensive
it ever was before it entered this degree, since it is moved by
Himself, and acted upon by His Spirit. St Paul desires that we
_led by the Spirit of God_ (Rom. viii. 14). I do not say that
be no action, but that we must act in dependence upon the divine
movement. This is admirably set forth by Ezekiel. The prophet saw
which had the spirit of life, and wherever this spirit was to go,
went; they went on, or stood, or were lifted up, as they were
for the spirit of life was in them: but they never went back (see
i. 19-21). It should be the same with the soul: it should suffer
to be moved and guided by the living Spirit who is in it,
direction, and no other. Now this Spirit will never lead it to go
backwards, that is, to reflect upon the creature, or to lean upon
itself, but always to go forward, pressing continually towards the
This action of the soul is a restful action. When it acts of
acts with effort; and is therefore more conscious of its action.
when it acts in dependence upon the Spirit of grace, its action is
free, so easy, so natural, that it does not seem to act at all.
brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because
delighted in me" (Ps. xviii. 19).
As soon as the soul has commenced its course towards its
that moment its action becomes vigorous--that is, its course
centre which attracts it, which infinitely surpasses the velocity
2. See chap. ix.
It is action then, but an action so _noble_, so _peaceful_, so
_tranquil_, that it seems to the soul as though it were not acting
all; because it rests, as it were, naturally. When a wheel is only
turning with a moderate speed, it can easily be distinguished; but
it goes quickly, no part of it can be distinctly seen. So the soul
remains at rest in God has an action infinitely noble and exalted,
very peaceful. The greater its peace, the greater is its velocity,
because it is abandoned to the Spirit, who moves it and makes it
This Spirit is God Himself, who draws us, and in drawing makes us
Him, as the Bride well knew when she said, "Draw me, we will run"
i. 4). Draw me, O my Divine Centre, by my inmost heart: my powers
sensibilities will run at Thy attraction! This attraction alone is
balm which heals me, and a perfume which draws. "We will run," she
"because of the savour of Thy good ointments." This attracting
_very strong_ but the soul follows it _very gladly_; and as it is
equally strong and sweet, it attracts by its strength and delights
The Bride says, "Draw me, we will run." She speaks of herself, and
herself: "Draw _me_;" there is the unity of the object which is
attracted: "_We_ will run;" there is the correspondence of all the
powers and sensibilities which follow in the train of the centre
It is not then a question of remaining in idleness, but of acting
dependence upon the Spirit of God_, who animates us, since it is
that "we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts xvii. 23). This
dependence upon the Spirit of God is absolutely necessary, and
the soul in a short time to attain the simplicity and unity in
was created. It was created one and simple, like God. In order,
answer the end of our creation, we must quit the multiplicity of
actions, to enter into the simplicity and unity of God, in whose
we were created (Gen. i. 27). The Spirit of God is "one only,"
manifold" (Wisdom of Solomon vii. 22), and its unity does not
its multiplicity. We enter into God's unity when we are united to
Spirit, because then we have the same Spirit that He has; and we
multiplied outwardly, as regards His dispositions, without leaving
So that, as God acts infinitely, and we are of one spirit with
act much more than we could do by our own action. We must suffer
ourselves to be guided by Wisdom. This "Wisdom" is more moving
motion (Wisdom of Solomon vii. 24). Let us, then, remain in
upon His action, and our action will be vigorous indeed.
"All things were made by (the Word); and without Him was not
made that was made" (John i. 3). God, in creating us, created us
image, after His likeness (Gen. i. 26). He gave to us the Spirit
Word by the breath of life (Gen. ii. 7), which He breathed into us
we were created in the image of God, by the participation of the
the Word, who is the image of His Father. Now this life is one,
pure, intimate, and fruitful.
The devil having disfigured this beautiful image, it became
that this same Word, whose breath had been breathed into us at our
creation, should come to restore it. It was necessary that it
He, because He is the image of the Father; and a defaced image
repaired by its own action, but by the action of him who seeks to
restore it. Our _action_ then should be, to _put ourselves_ into a
position to suffer the action of God, and to allow the Word to
His image in us. An image, if it could move, would by its movement
prevent the sculptor's perfecting it. Every movement of our own
the work of the Heavenly Sculptor, and produces false features.
We must then remain silent, and only move as He moves us. Jesus
has _life in Himself_ (John v. 26), and He must communicate life
That this action is the most noble cannot be denied. Things are
value as the principle in which they originate is noble, grand,
elevated. Actions committed by a divine principle are _divine
whereas the actions of the creature, however good they may appear,
_human actions_ or at best they are virtuous actions, if they are
with the help of grace.
Jesus says that He has life in Himself; all other beings have but
borrowed life, but the Word has life in Himself; and as He is
communicative, He desires to communicate this life to men. We must
give place to this life, that it may flow in us, which can only be
by evacuation, and the loss of the life of Adam and of our own
as St Paul assures us: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new
old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2
17). This can only be brought about by the death of ourselves and
own action, that the action of God may be substituted for it. We
profess, then, to be without action, but only to act in dependence
the Spirit of God, suffering His action to take the place of our
Jesus shows us this in the gospel. Martha did good things, but
she did them of her own spirit, Christ reproved her for them. The
of man is turbulent and boisterous; therefore it does little,
appears to do much. "Martha, Martha," said Jesus, "thou art
troubled about many things; but one thing is needful; and Mary
chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her"
What had she chosen, this Magdalene? Peace, tranquillity, and
She apparently ceased to act, that she might be moved by the
God; she ceased to live, that Christ might live in her.
This is why it is so necessary to renounce ourselves and all our
works to follow Jesus; for we cannot follow Him unless we are
with His Spirit. In order that the Spirit of Christ may dwell in
own spirit must give place to Him. "He that is joined to the
St Paul, "is one spirit" (1 Cor. vi. 17). "It is good for me to
near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God" (Ps. lxxiii.
is this "drawing near"? It is the beginning of union.
Union has its beginning, its continuation, its completion, and its
consummation. The commencement of union is an inclination towards
When the soul is converted in the manner I have described, it has
inclination to its centre, and a strong tendency to union: this
is the commencement. Then it adheres, which happens when it
nearer to God; then it is united to Him, and finally becomes one
Him--that is, it becomes one spirit with Him; and it is then that
spirit, which proceeded from God, returns to Him as its end.
It is, then, necessary that we should enter this way, which is the
divine motion, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. St Paul says, "If
have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Rom. viii. 9).
Christ's, then, we must suffer ourselves to be filled with His
and emptied of our own: our hearts must be evacuated. St Paul, in
same place, proves to us the necessity of this divine motion: he
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of
(Rom. viii. 14).
The divinely-imparted Spirit is the Spirit of divine sonship;
the same apostle continues, "Ye have not received the spirit of
again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption,
cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. viii. 15). This spirit is no other than
Spirit of Christ, by whom we participate in His Sonship; and this
"Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the
As soon as the soul leaves itself to be moved by the Spirit of
experiences the witness of this divine sonship; and this witness
the more to increase its joy, as it makes it know _that it is
the liberty of the sons of God_, and that the spirit it has
not a spirit of bondage, but of liberty.
The Spirit of the divine motion is so necessary for all things,
Paul founds this necessity upon our ignorance of the things that
for. "The Spirit," he says, "helpeth our infirmities; for we know
what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh
intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered." This
conclusive: if we do not know what to pray for, nor how to ask as
ought for what is necessary for us, and if it is needful that the
who is in us, to whose motion we abandon ourselves, should ask it
us, ought we not to leave Him to do it? He does it "with groanings
cannot be uttered."
This Spirit is the Spirit of the Word, who is always heard, as He
Himself: "I know that Thou hearest me always" (John xi. 42). If we
it to the Spirit within us to ask and to pray, we shall always be
answered. Why so? O great apostle, mystic teacher, so deeply
the inner life! teach us why. "It is," he adds, "because He that
searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,
maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God;"
is to say, this Spirit only asks that which it is God's will to
is God's will that we should be saved and that we should be
asks, then, for all that is necessary to our perfection. Why,
this, should we be burdened with superfluous cares, and be wearied
the greatness of our way, without ever saying, There is no hope in
ourselves, and therefore resting in God? God Himself invites us to
all our care upon Him, and He complains, in inconceivable
we employ our strength, our riches, and our treasure, in countless
exterior things, although there is so little joy to be found in
all. "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and
labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me,
eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in
(Isa. lv. 2).
Oh, if it were known what happiness there is in thus hearkening
God, and how the soul is strengthened by it! All flesh must be
before the Lord (see Zech. ii. 13). All self-effort must cease
appears. In order still further to induce us to abandon ourselves
without reserve, God assures us that we need fear nothing from
abandonment, because He has a special individual care over each of
He says, "Can a woman forget her sucking-child, that she should
compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will I
forget thee" (Isa. xlix. 15). Ah, words full of consolation! Who
hearing them can fear to abandon himself utterly to the guidance
DISTINCTION BETWEEN EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR ACTIONS--THOSE OF THE
THIS CONDITION ARE INTERIOR, BUT HABITUAL, CONTINUED, DIRECT,
SIMPLE, AND IMPERCEPTIBLE--BEING A CONTINUAL SINKING IN THE OCEAN
DIVINITY--SIMILITUDE OF A VESSEL--HOW TO ACT IN THE ABSENCE OF
The actions of men are either exterior or interior. The _exterior_
those which appear outwardly, and have a sensible object,
neither good nor evil qualities, excepting as they receive them
interior principle in which they originate. It is not of these
intend to speak, but only of interior actions, which are those
of the soul by which it _applies itself_ inwardly to some object,
_turns away_ from some other.
When, being applied to God, I desire to commit an action of a
nature from those which He would prompt, I turn away from God, and
turn towards created things more or less according to the strength
weakness of my action. If, being turned towards the creature, I
return to God, I must commit the action of turning away from the
creature, and turning towards God; and thus the more perfect is
action, the more complete will be the conversion.
Until I am perfectly converted, I need several actions to turn me
towards God. Some are done all at once, others gradually; but my
ought to lead me to turn to God, employing all the strength of my
for Him, as it is written, "Therefore even now, saith the Lord,
even to me with all your heart" (Joel ii. 12). "Thou shalt return
the Lord thy God ... with all thine heart and with all thy soul"
xxx. 2). God only asks for our heart: "My son, give me thy heart,
let thine eyes observe my ways" (Prov. xxiii. 26). To give the
God is to have its gaze, its strength, and its vigour all centred
Him, to follow His will. We must, then, after we have applied to
remain always turned towards Him.
But as the mind of man is weak, and the soul, being accustomed to
towards earthly things, is easily turned away from God, it must,
as it perceives that it is turned towards outward things, resume
former position in God by a simple act of return to Him.
And as several repeated acts form a habit, the soul contracts a
conversion, and from action it passes to a habitual condition.
The soul, then, must not seek by means of any efforts or works of
own to come near to God; this is seeking to perform one action by
of others, instead of by a simple action remaining attached to God
If we believe that we must commit no actions, we are mistaken, for
are always acting_; but each one must act according to his degree.
I will endeavour to make this point clear, as, for want of
it, it presents a difficulty to many Christians.
There are _passing_ and _distinct_ actions, and _continued_
_direct_ acts and _reflected_ acts. All cannot perform the first,
all are not in a condition to perform the others. The first
should be committed by those who are turned away from God. They
turn to Him by a distinct action, more or less strong according to
distance from Him.
By a _continued_ action I understand that by which the soul is
completely turned towards its God by a _direct_ action, which it
not renew, unless it has been interrupted, but which exists. The
being altogether turned in this way, is in love, and remains
he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God" (1 John iv. 16). Then
soul may be said to be in a habitual act, resting even in this
But its rest is not idle, for it has an action _always in force_,
_a gentle sinking in God_, in which God attracts it more and more
strongly; and, following this attraction, and resting in love, it
more and more in this love, and has an action infinitely stronger,
vigorous, and more prompt, than that action which forms only the
Now the soul which is in this _profound and strong action_, being
towards its God, does not perceive this action, because it is
and not reflex; so that persons in this condition, not knowing how
rightly to describe it, say that _they have no action_. But they
mistaken; they were never more active. It would be better to say
not distinguish any action, than that they do not commit any.
The soul does not act of itself, I admit; but it is drawn, and it
follows the attracting power. Love is the weight which sinks it,
person who falls in the sea sinks, and would sink to infinity if
were infinite; and without perceiving its sinking, it would sink
most profound depths with an incredible speed. It is, then,
say that no actions are committed. All commit actions, but all do
commit them in the same manner; and the abuse arises from the
those who know that action is inevitable wish it to be _distinct_
_sensible_. But sensible action is for beginners, and the other
those more advanced. To stop with the first would be to deprive
ourselves of the last; and to wish to commit the last before
passed the first would be an equal abuse.
Everything must be done in its season; each state has its
its progress, and its end. There is no act which has not its
At first we must work with _effort_, but afterwards we enjoy the
of our labour.
When a vessel is in the harbour, the sailors have a difficulty in
bringing it into the open sea; but once there, they easily turn it
the direction in which they wish to navigate. So, when the soul is
sin, it needs an effort to drag it out; the cords which bind it
loosened; then, by means of strong and vigorous action, it must be
within itself, little by little leaving the harbour, and being
within, which is the place to which its voyage should be directed.
When the vessel is thus turned, in proportion as it advances in
it leaves the land behind it, and the further it goes from the
less effort is needed to carry it along. At last it begins to sail
gently, and the vessel goes on so rapidly that the oars become
What does the pilot do then? He is contented with spreading the
and sitting at the helm.
_Spreading the sails_ is simply laying ourselves before God, to be
moved by His Spirit. _Sitting at the helm_ is preventing our heart
leaving the right way, rowing it gently, and leading it according
movement of the Spirit of God, who gradually takes possession of
the wind gradually fills the sails, and impels the vessel forward.
long as the vessel sails before the wind, the mariners rest from
labour. They voyage farther in an hour, while they rest in this
and leave the ship to be carried along by the wind, than they
would in a
much longer time by their own efforts; and if they wished to row,
besides the fatigue which would result from it, their labour would
useless, and would only serve to retard the vessel.
This is the conduct we should pursue in our inner life, and in
thus we shall advance more in a short time by the Divine guidance,
we ever could do by our own efforts. If only you will try this
will find it the easiest possible.
When the wind is contrary, if the wind and the tempest are
anchor must be thrown in the sea to stop the vessel. This _anchor_
trust in God and hope in His goodness, waiting in patience for the
tempest to cease, and for a favourable wind to return, as David
"I waited patiently for the Lord," he says, "and He inclined unto
(Ps. xl. 1).
THE DRYNESS OF PREACHERS, AND THE VARIOUS EVILS WHICH ARISE FROM
FAILING TO TEACH HEART-PRAYER--EXHORTATION TO PASTORS TO LEAD
TOWARDS THIS FORM OF PRAYER, WITHOUT AMUSING THEM WITH STUDIED AND
If all those who are working for the conquest of souls sought to
them _by the heart_, leading them first of all to prayer and to
inner life, they would see many and lasting conversions. But so
they only address themselves to the outside, and instead of
people to Christ by occupying their hearts with Him, they only
a thousand precepts for outward observances, they will see but
fruit, and that will not be lasting.
When once the heart is won, other defects are easily corrected.
why God particularly asks for the _heart_. By this means alone
prevented the drunkenness, blasphemy, lewdness, enmity, and
which are prevalent in the world. Jesus Christ would reign
and the Church everywhere would be revived.
Error only takes possession of the soul in the absence of faith
prayer. If men could be taught to _believe simply_ and to _pray_,
instead of disputing amongst themselves, they would be gently led
Oh, how inestimable is the loss of those who neglect the inner
what an account will they have to render to God who have the
souls, for not having discovered this hidden treasure to all those
they serve in the ministry of the Word!
The excuse given is that there is _danger_ in this way, or that
people are incapable of spiritual things. The oracle of truth
that God has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has
revealed them to babes. And what danger can there be in walking in
only true way, which is Jesus Christ, in giving ourselves to Him,
looking to Him continually, putting all our trust in His grace,
tending, with all the forces of our souls, to His pure love?
Far from the simple ones being _incapable_ of this perfection,
the most suitable for it, because they are more docile, more
more innocent; and as they do not reason, they are not so attached
their own light. Having no science, they more readily suffer
to be guided by the Spirit of God: while others who are blind in
own sufficiency resist the divine inspiration.
God tells us, too, that it is to the _simple_ He gives
the entrance of His Word (Ps. cxix. 130). "The testimony of the
sure, making wise the _simple_" (Ps. xix. 7). "The Lord preserveth
_simple_: I was brought low, and He helped me" (Ps. cxvi. 6).
O ye who have the oversight of souls! see that you do not prevent
little ones from going to Christ. His words to His disciples were,
"Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for
such is the kingdom of God" (Luke xviii. 16). Jesus only said this
His disciples, because they wished to keep the children away from
Often the remedy is applied to the body, when the disease is at
_heart_. The reason why we have so little success in seeking to
men, is that we direct our efforts to the outside, and all that we
do there soon passes off. But if we were to give them first _the
the interior_, the outside would be reformed at once with a
And this is very easy. To teach them to seek God in their heart,
think of Him, to return to Him when they find they have turned
do all and suffer all for the sake of pleasing Him--this is to
them to the source of all grace, and to make them find there all
necessary for their sanctification. O you who serve souls! I
to put them first of all into this way, which is Jesus Christ; and
He who conjures you to do this by the blood He has shed for the
confides to your care. "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem" (Isa. xl.
marg.) O dispensers of His grace, preachers of His Word, ministers
sacraments! establish His kingdom; and, in order to establish it
make it reign over HEARTS. For as it is the heart alone which can
His empire, it is by the subjection of the heart that His
most honoured. Alas! we seek to make _studied_ prayers; and by
to arrange them too much, we render them impossible. We have
children from the best of Fathers, in seeking to teach them a
language. Go, poor children, and speak to your Heavenly Father in
natural language: however uncultivated it may be, it is not so to
father loves best the speech which is put in disorder by love and
respect, because he sees that it comes from the heart: it is more
than a dry harangue, vain and unfruitful though well studied. Oh,
certain glances of love charm and ravish Him! They express
more than all language and reason. By wishing to teach how to love
Himself with method, much of this love has been lost. Oh! it is
necessary to teach the art of loving. The language of love is
to him who does not love; and we cannot learn to love God better
by loving Him. The Spirit of God does not need our arrangements;
takes shepherds at His pleasure to make them prophets; and, far
closing the palace of prayer to any, as it is imagined, He leaves
doors open to all, and Wisdom is ordered to cry in the public
"Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth
understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink
wine which I have mingled" (Prov. ix. 4, 5). Did not Christ thank
Father that He had hidden these things from the wise and prudent,
had revealed them to babes? (Matt. xi. 25.)
AFTER THE PRECEDING WAYS, THERE REMAINS AN AFTER WAY, PREPARATORY
DIVINE UNION, IN WHICH WISDOM AND JUSTICE MAKE THE PASSIVE
OF THE SOUL, ALL WHICH IS TREATED IN DETAIL IN THE FOLLOWING
ENTITLED "SPIRITUAL TORRENTS."
It is impossible to attain divine union by the way of meditation
or even by the affections, or by any luminous or understood
There are several reasons. These are the principal.
First, according to Scripture, "No man shall see God and live"
xxxiii. 20). Now all discursive exercises of prayer, or even of
contemplation_, regarded as an end, and not as a preparation for
_passive_, are exercises of life by which we cannot see God, that
become united to Him. All that is of man, and of his own industry,
however noble and elevated it may be, must die.
St John tells us that "there was silence in heaven." Heaven
the depths and centre of the soul, where all must be in silence
majesty of God appears. All that belongs to our own efforts, or to
ourselves in any way, must be destroyed, because nothing is
God but appropriation, and all the malignity of man is in this
appropriation, which is the source of his evil; so that the more a
loses its appropriation, the more it becomes pure.
Secondly, in order to unite two things so opposed as the purity of
and the impurity of the creature, the simplicity of God and the
multiplicity of the creature, God must operate alone; for this can
be done by the effort of the creature, since two things cannot be
unless there is some relation or resemblance between them, as an
metal would never unite with one that was pure and refined.
What does God do then? He sends before Him His own Wisdom, as fire
be sent upon the earth to consume by its activity all the impurity
is there. Fire consumes all things, and nothing resists its
is the same with Wisdom; it consumes all impurity in the creature,
prepare him for divine union.
This impurity, so opposed to union, is appropriation and activity.
_Appropriation_, because it is the source of the real impurity
never be united to essential purity; as the sun's rays may touch
but cannot unite with it. _Activity_, because God being in an
repose, in order that the soul may be united to Him, it must
in His repose, without which there can be no union, because of the
dissemblance; and to unite two things, they must be in a
It is for this reason that the soul can only attain divine union
rest of its will; and it can only be united to God when it is in a
_central rest_ and in the purity of its creation.
To purify the soul God makes use of wisdom as fire is used for the
purification of gold. It is certain that gold can only be purified
fire, which gradually consumes all that is earthly and foreign,
separates it from the gold. It is not sufficient that the earth
be changed into gold; it is necessary that the fire should melt
dissolve it, to remove from it all that is earthly; and this gold
in the fire so many times that it loses its impurity, and all
of purification. Then it is fit to be employed in the most
And if this gold is impure in the end, it is because it has
fresh defilement by coming in contact with other bodies. But this
impurity is only superficial, and does not prevent its being used;
whereas its former impurity was hidden within it, and, as it were,
identified with its nature.
In addition to this, you will remark that gold of an inferior
purity cannot mix with that of a superior purity. The one must
the impurity of the other, or else impart its own purity to it.
refined gold with an unrefined one, what can the goldsmith ever do
it? He will have all the impurity taken from the second piece,
may be able to mix with the first. This is what St Paul tells us,
"the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is;" he adds,
if any man's work should be found to deserve burning, he should be
"so as by fire" (1 Cor. iii. 13, 15). That means, that though
some works which are good, and which God receives, yet, so that he
has done them may be pure, they too must pass through the fire, in
that all appropriation, that is, all that was his own, may be
from them. God will judge our righteousness, because "by the deeds
the law there shall no flesh be justified," but by "the
God, which is by faith" (Rom. iii. 20, 22).
This being understood, I say that, in order that man may be united
his God, wisdom and divine justice, like a pitiless and devouring
must take from him all appropriation, all that is terrestrial,
and of his own activity; and having taken all this from him, they
unite him to God.
This is never brought about by the labours of the creature; on the
contrary, it even causes him regret, because, as I have said, man
loves what is his own, and is so fearful of its destruction, that
did not accomplish it Himself, and by His own authority, man would
consent to it.
It will be objected to this, that God never deprives man of his
and that therefore he can always resist God; for which reason I
not to say that _God acts absolutely, without the consent of man_.
explanation I say, that it is sufficient that man should give a
_passive consent_, that he may have entire and full liberty;
having at the beginning given himself to God, that He may do as He
both with him and in him, he gave from that time an _active_ and
assent to all that God might do. But when God destroys, burns, and
purifies, the soul does not see that all this is for its
rather believes the contrary: and as at first the fire seems to
the gold, so this operation seems to despoil the soul of its
that if an _active_ and _explicit_ consent were required, the soul
find a difficulty in giving it, and often would not give it. All
does is to remain in a passive contentment, enduring this
well as it can, being neither able nor willing to prevent it.
God then so purifies this soul of all natural, distinct, and
operations, that at last He makes it more and more _conformed_ to
Himself, and then _uniform_, raising the passive capacity of the
creature, enlarging it and ennobling it, though in a hidden and
unperceived manner, which is termed mystical. But in all these
operations the soul must concur passively, and in proportion as
working of God becomes stronger, the soul must continually yield
until He absorbs it altogether. We do not say, then, as some
that there must be no _action_; since, on the contrary, this is
door_; but only that _we must not remain in it_, seeing that man
tend towards the perfection of his end, and that he can never
without quitting the first means, which, though they were
introduce him into the way, would greatly hinder him afterwards,
attached himself obstinately to them. This is what Paul said, "I
those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things
are before; I press toward the mark" (Phil. iii. 13, 14).
Should we not consider a person destitute of reason who, after
undertaking a journey, stopped at the first inn, because he was
that several had passed it, that a few had lodged there, and that
landlord lived there? What the soul is required to do, then, is
advance towards its end_, to take the shortest road, not to stop
first point, and, following the advice of St Paul, to suffer
be "led by the Spirit of God" (Rom. viii. 14), who will lead it to
end for which it was created, which is the enjoyment of God.
It is well known that the sovereign good is God; that essential
blessedness consists in union with God, and that this union cannot
the result of our own efforts, since God only communicates Himself
the soul according to its capacity. We cannot be united to God
passivity and simplicity; and this union being bliss, the way
leads to it must be the best, and there can be no risk in walking
This way is not _dangerous_. If it were, Christ would not have
represented it as the most perfect and necessary of all ways. All
walk in it; and as all are called to blessedness, all are called
enjoyment of God, both in this life and in that which is to come,
the enjoyment of God is blessedness. I say the enjoyment of God
not of His gifts, which can never impart essential blessedness,
being able fully to satisfy the soul, which is so constituted that
the richest gifts of God cannot thoroughly content it. The desire
is to give Himself to us, according to the capacity with which He
endowed us; and yet we fear to leave ourselves to God! We fear to
possess Him, and to be prepared for divine union!
You say, _we must not bring ourselves to this condition_. I agree
that; but I say too, that no one ever could bring himself to it,
no man could ever unite himself to God by his own efforts, and God
Himself must do the work.
You say that some pretend to have attained it. I say that this
cannot be feigned, any more than a man dying of hunger can for any
length of time pretend to be satisfied. It will soon be known
no men have attained this end.
Since, then, none can arrive at the end unless he be brought
is not a question of introducing people to it, but of showing them
way which leads to it, and begging them not to rest in those
which must be relinquished at God's command.
Would it not be cruelty to show a fountain to a thirsty man, and
hold him bound, and prevent his going to it, leaving him to die of
thirst? That is what is being done now. Let us all be agreed both
the way and the end. The way has its commencement, its progress,
its terminus. The more we advance towards the terminus, the
go from the commencement; and it is impossible to reach the
by constantly going farther from the starting-point, being unable
from one place to another without passing through all that comes
them: this is incontestable.
Oh, how blind are the majority of men, who pride themselves upon
learning and talent!
O Lord! how true it is that Thou hast hidden Thy secrets from the
and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes!
End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of A Short Method Of Prayer And
Torrents, by Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mot Guyon
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