Editor's note:

We don’t always know what to expect in prayer. We may know that we should pray, or we may know what to pray for, but when it comes to how we pray, we may be at a loss. Some have said that the best way to learn to pray is to just pray. Though that is tru­ly the only way to learn how to pray, a sea­soned guide may help us nav­i­gate the var­i­ous ter­rains of the prayer filled life. We can ben­e­fit from some­one who has walked the road and can tell us what to expect from prayer with all of its nuanced intricacies.

Jeanne Guy­on comes along­side us and ever so gen­tly explains all that we may encounter in prayer. She not only tells us to ride the bike, but helps us also to under­stand the mechan­ics of the bike, and what to expect in the expe­ri­ence of rid­ing the bike. 

In Expe­ri­enc­ing the Depths of Jesus Christ, Guy­on begins by invit­ing the read­er into two prayer­ful prac­tices: Pray­ing the Scrip­ture” (pon­der­ing small por­tions of Scrip­ture until they become prayer) and Behold­ing the Lord” (using Scrip­ture to still your mind and then wait­ing qui­et­ly in God’s pres­ence.) Once we are in the habit of reg­u­lar times of Pray­ing the Scrip­ture and Behold­ing the Lord, Guy­on tells us, we may find our­selves ready for the Prayer of Sim­plic­i­ty,” which she explores for us in the excerpt that follows.

—Avo Adourian
Renovaré Institute Alumnus

Excerpt from Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

You now have some acquain­tance with pray­ing the Scrip­ture and behold­ing the Lord or Wait­ing in His pres­ence. Let us assume that you have prac­ticed these two ways of com­ing to the Lord. Let us say that you have passed through the awk­ward stage of this and have come into real experience.

Now let us move on to con­sid­er a deep­er lev­el of expe­ri­ence with the Lord; that is a deep­er lev­el of prayer. Some have described this sec­ond lev­el as an expe­ri­ence of faith and still­ness.” Oth­ers have referred to it as the Prayer of Sim­plic­i­ty”. I pre­fer the lat­ter name. 

Let us say you have grown accus­tomed to pray­ing the Scrip­ture and to wait­ing qui­et­ly in the sense of the Lord’s pres­ence, that these have made them­selves part of your life. If this is so, you have found that it is now much eas­i­er to come to the Lord and to know His pres­ence. But I would like to remind you once more that, what was writ­ten pre­vi­ous­ly was writ­ten to those who are just begin­ning to know Christ. 

When you first began, it was dif­fi­cult for you to recall your wan­der­ing mind. It was dif­fi­cult to con­tin­u­al­ly turn inward to your spir­it. Lit­tle by lit­tle, these mat­ters have become much more nat­ur­al and sim­ple. And now prayer has come to be easy, sweet and nat­ur­al — as well as delight­ful. You grad­u­al­ly rec­og­nize that prayer is the true way, the real way of find­ing God. And once you have found Him, you pro­claim joy­ful­ly. His name is an oint­ment poured forth” (Song of Solomon 1:3)

You might think that I would now encour­age you to con­tin­ue on this very suc­cess­ful path. Instead, I am going to encour­age you to change your course just a lit­tle. In so doing, once more you are going to come to a point that might have some dis­cour­age­ment in it. Start­ing out on a new path to explore the Lord always means encoun­ter­ing some dif­fi­cul­ties at the out­set! There­fore I would encour­age you to have a believ­ing heart from this point on. You must not be dis­cour­aged. There will be a lit­tle dif­fi­cul­ty along the way as you seek to go into a deep­er rela­tion­ship with the Lord. 

Now with these words behind us, let us look at this new lev­el of prayer. 

First of all, come into the Lord’s pres­ence by faith. As you are there before Him, keep turn­ing inward to your spir­it until your mind is col­lect­ed and you are per­fect­ly still before Him. Now when your atten­tion is final­ly turned with­in and your mind is set on the Lord, sim­ply remain qui­et before Him for a lit­tle while. 

Per­haps you will begin to enjoy a sense of the Lord’s pres­ence. If that is the case, do not try to think if any­thing. Do not try to say any­thing. Do not try to do any­thing! As long as the Lord’s pres­ence con­tin­ues, just remain there. Remain before Him exact­ly as you are. 

The aware­ness of His pres­ence will even­tu­al­ly begin to decrease. When this hap­pens, utter some words of love to the Lord or sim­ply call on His name. Do this qui­et­ly and gen­tly with a believ­ing heart. In so doing, you will be once again be brought back to the sweet­ness of His pres­ence. You will dis­cov­er that you once more return to that sweet place of utter enjoy­ment, that you have just expe­ri­enced! Once the sweet­ness of His pres­ence has returned to its fullest, again be still before Him. 

You should not seek to move as long as He is near. 

What is the point? The point is this: There is a fire with­in you and it ebbs and grows. That fire, when it ebbs must be gen­tly fanned, but only gen­tly. Just as soon as that fire begins to burn, again cease all your efforts. Oth­er­wise you may put out the flame. This, then is the sec­ond lev­el of prayer — a sec­ond lev­el in expe­ri­enc­ing Jesus Christ. 

When you have come to the end of this time, always remain there before the Lord, qui­et­ly for a lit­tle while. Also, it is very impor­tant that all your prayer be done with a believ­ing heart. Pray­ing with a believ­ing heart is more impor­tant than any­thing else that has to do with prayer! 

Before we fin­ish this chap­ter, I would like to talk with you just a moment about the motive of your heart in your seek­ing the Lord. After all, why do you come to the Lord? Do you come to Him for the sweet­ness? Do you come to Him because it is enjoy­able to be in the Lord’s pres­ence? Let me rec­om­mend a high­er way. 

As you come to the Lord to pray, bring a full heart of pure love, a love that is not seek­ing any­thing for itself. Bring a heart that is seek­ing noth­ing from the Lord, but desires only to please Him and to do His will. 

Let me illus­trate. Con­sid­er the ser­vant. The ser­vant takes good care of His mas­ter; but if he does it only to receive some reward, he is not wor­thy of any con­sid­er­a­tion what­so­ev­er. So dear Chris­t­ian, as you come to the Lord to pray, do not come for spir­i­tu­al enjoy­ment. Do not even come to expe­ri­ence your Lord. 

Then What? Come just to please Him. 

Once you are there, if He choos­es to pour out some great bless­ing, receive it. But if, instead, your mind wan­ders, receive that. Or if you have a dif­fi­cult time in prayer, receive that. Joy­ful­ly accept what­ev­er He desires to give. Believe that what­ev­er hap­pens is what He wants to give you! 

Let me repeat that, for it is very impor­tant! It is espe­cial­ly impor­tant to you for any future growth in expe­ri­enc­ing Christ. Believe by faith that what­ev­er hap­pens is His desire for you at that time. 

When you have come to the Lord this way, you will find that your spir­it is at peace no mat­ter what your con­di­tion. When you have learned to come to the Lord with this atti­tude, you will not be upset if the Lord with­draws Him­self from you. The times of spir­i­tu­al dry­ness will be the same to you as the times of spir­i­tu­al abun­dance. You will treat them both the same. Why? Because you will have learned to Love God just because you love Him, not because of His gifts, nor even His pre­cious presence. 

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Excerpt­ed from Jeanne Guy­on’s Expe­ri­enc­ing the Depths of Jesus Christ (The Seed Sow­ers, 1975).

Pho­to by Ash­ley Batz on Unsplash