Successful Mental Prayer

Father Guibert writes: “Mental prayer presupposes much liberty and activity in those who practise it. . . . Activity is maintained by struggles against idleness or distaste. A soul can only pray on condition that she remains within herself and dwells there in silence and solitude; if she goes astray and becomes externally distracted by allowing herself to be dissipated, she will find neither God nor her own heart; if she allows the tumult of the world or sensualism to penetrate her, she will hear neither the word of God nor the voice of her own needs.”

“Set at liberty, the soul will easily yield to the tendency which inclines her towards God; and habitual recollection will make mental prayer easy. But this liberty will only be of advantage to her on condition that its activity is won and sustained: won by faithful preparation and sustained against various causes of discouragement. To make no preparation for prayer is to abandon one’s soul to impressions which may spring up capriciously either within or from without. The object of preparation is to set in the soul a definite object on which all the faculties will engage, around which thoughts and feelings will gather. It is to do disrespect to God, if we come into His presence without taking forethought as to the subject to be dealt with in our converse with Him, and it is reducing our piety to a sterile formalism to fulfil in this empty manner its principal exercises.”

“We must, however, resist temptations to idleness and distaste. We shall use the help of books of vocal prayers, until we have got control of our minds and kindled our hearts; the beginning of prayer, like the beginning of all work, cannot be made without effort. We shall be persuaded that the hours given to prayer are the most fruitful times of the day; and if we are busy, far from neglecting the duties of our state of life on account of prayer, we shall find it helps us to fulfil them all the better. We shall keep these blessed hours sacred and inviolable, and even if we feel that we are making no progress, because we experience no relish for them, we shall nevertheless continue faithful in mounting guard daily at God’s gate, and in saying to Him: ‘I am here.'”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On the Exercises of Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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