A short method of prayer

This is the fifth part of a series on prayer, adapted from Madame Jeanne Guyon’s writings from the 17th Century.

There are two ways of entering into a deeper communion with God: mediation and meditative reading.

By meditative reading I mean the taking of some truths, either doctrinal or practical—the latter rather than the former—and reading them in this way. Take the truth which has resonated with you, and read two or three lines, trying to understand the full meaning of the words, and don’t move on to anything else until you feel satisfied that you have got it. After that, take another passage, and do the same, not reading more than half a page at once. It is not about how much you read, but about how you read it.

Those people who read vast amounts of scripture may not be gaining as much from it as they could. Bees can only feed when they rest long enough on a flower, not when they fly aimlessly around them. Reading large chunks of the bible is more from an academic aim, but if you want to gain spiritual insight then a meditative reading of scripture is essential. This kind of reading accustoms us gradually to prayer, and gives us a deeper desire for it.

The other way is Meditation, in which we should engage at a chosen time, not during the time we set aside for reading. After we approach God in faith, we should read something substantial, not so much to understand it like before, but to fix our attention on God.

This faith in the presence of God within our hearts must lead us to enter within ourselves, collecting our thoughts, and preventing their wandering; this is an effectual way of getting rid of distracting thoughts, and of losing sight of outward things, in order to draw near to God, who can only be found in the secret place of our hearts.

He has promised that if any one keeps His commandments, He will come to him, and make His abode with him (John xiv. 23). St Augustine reproaches himself for the time he lost through not having sought God at first in this way.

This method of prayer is very necessary, and will advance the soul in a short time, 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 the senses when they wander.

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