Augustine, experience, Francisco de Osuna, Gerhard Tersteegen, God's love, heart, Jeanne-Marie de la Motte-Guyon, mediation, meditative reading, mind, prayer, prayer without ceasing, presence of God, Teresa of Ávila
Whether it was Augustine, Teresa of Ávila, or other famous saints, I too made the same experiences they had made before me, that is, for many years I neglected daily prayer because…yes, I was bored with that daily routine. Teresa even admitted that she forgot about it for 14 years during which she lived a “worldly life” (her words) until she found a helpful book from another Spanish spiritual author, Francisco de Osuna, who introduced her to the prayer that finally led her into her inner life in the presence of God.
Instead of presenting another excerpt from Gerhard Tersteegen, I decided to offer you two excerpts from a French woman whose writings were translated by Tersteegen into the German language. Tersteegen as a Reformed Christian also translated Teresa of Ávila’s spiritual writings into German. Thus he gained enormous insight into the riches of Catholic mysticism and was eventually able to present a way deeper gospel to his Reformed fellow Christians.
But now let’s get started with Madame de la Motte-Guyon.
Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the 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 of God. He tells us this Himself: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. xvii. 1). Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep 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 draw us; a prayer which can be offered alike by princes, kings, prelates, magistrates, soldiers, children, artisans, labourers, women, and the 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 thinking of another. But it is the PRAYER OF THE HEART, which cannot be interrupted by the occupations of the mind. Nothing can interrupt the prayer of the heart but unruly affections; and when once we have tasted of the love of God, it is impossible to find our delight in anything but Himself.
Nothing is easier than to have God and to live upon Him. He is more truly in us than we are in ourselves. He is more anxious to give Himself to us than we are to possess Him. All that we want is to know the way to seek Him, which is so easy and so natural, that breathing itself is not more so.
(Jeanne-Marie de la Motte-Guyon, “A Short Method of Prayer”, Chapter 1)
There are two means by which we may be led into the higher forms of prayer. One is Meditation, the other is 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 presented itself to you, and read two or three lines, seeking to enter into the full meaning of the words, and go on no further so long as you find satisfaction in them; leave the place only when it becomes insipid. After that, take another passage, and do 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 from 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 by resting on them, not by flying round them. Much reading is more for scholastic than for spiritual science; but in order to derive profit from spiritual books, we should read them in this way; and I am sure that this manner 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, and not in the hour given to reading. I think the way to enter into it is this:—After having brought ourselves into the presence of God by a definite act of faith, we should read something substantial, not so much to reason upon it, as to fix the attention, observing that the principal exercise should be the presence of God, and that the subject should rather fix the attention than exercise reason.
(Jeanne-Marie de la Motte-Guyon, “A Short Method of Prayer”, Chapter 2)
If you like, read more here http://www.gutenberg.org/files/24989/24989-h/24989-h.htm#png.022.