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.

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

Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash