Introductory Note:

First, and most obvious, Julian is a theological optimist. Standing over against the pessimism and sin-absorption of the popular theology of much of the Middle Ages and in spite of living in the midst of devastating cultural revolution and the collapse of centuries-old institutions and patterns of life on which whole cultures had been based—Julian stands forward astoundingly as a primary voice of hope.

When we think of the events during her life in England, the parallels with our own time present themselves with awesome clarity. She saw the assassination of a king and an archbishop, and the nationwide rioting of the poor in the Peasants’ Rebellion. She lived through three sieges of the Black Death, which struck Norwich with exceptional devastation and killed over half of the population there, saw the beginning of the Hundred Years War between England and France…

This was the mad, crumbling world in which this exceptional woman lived, and it was in this world that, astoundingly, she was able to accept and articulate those most famous words: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

—Fr John-Julian OJN, from the introduction to Revelations of Divine Love

And all this brought our Lord suddenly to my mind and He showed these words and said:

I am the ground of thy praying–
first, it is my will that thou have something,
and next I make thee to want it,
and afterward I cause thee to pray for it.
If thou prayest for it,
how, then, could it be that thou wouldst not get what thou askest for?”

And thus in the first proposition, with the three that follow, our good Lord shows a powerful encouragement, as can be seen in the above words.

In that first statement, where He says: If thou prayest for it, etc.,“
there He shows the very great pleasure and endless reward that
He will give us because of our praying.

In the second statement, where He says: how then, could it be? etc,
this was said as an impossible thing,
because it is the most impossible thing that can be that we
should pray for mercy and grace and not get it.

Because everything that our good Lord causes us to pray for,
He himself has already appointed to us from without beginning.

Here can we see, then, that it is not our praying that is the cause of the goodness and grace that He does for us,
but God’s own characteristic goodness.

And that He showed truthfully in all those sweet words when He says, I am the ground.”

And our good Lord wills that this be recognized by His lovers on earth
and the more that we recognize this,
the more we shall pray (if it is wisely accepted)
and this is our Lord’s intention.

Praying is
a true, gracious, lasting intention of the soul
one-ed and made fast to the will of our Lord
by the sweet, secret working of the Holy Spirit.


Our Lord God wishes for us to have true understanding, and especially in three matters that are related to our prayer.

The first is by whom and how our prayer originates;
by whom,” He shows when He says, I am the ground. …”, and
how” is by His goodness, for He says, First, it is my will.”

For the second, in what manner and how we should practice our
prayers; and that is that our will be transformed into the will
of our Lord, rejoicing; and this He means when He says, I
make thee to will it…”

For the third, that we understand the fruit and the end of our
prayer: that is, to be one-ed to and like our Lord in everything.

And for this meaning and for this end was all this loving lesson shown; and He wishes to help us, if we will make our prayer just as He says Himself — blessed may He be!

This is our Lord’s will:
that our prayer
and our trust
be both equally great.

For if we do not trust as much as we pray,
we do incomplete honor to our Lord in our prayer,
and also we delay and pain ourselves;
and the reason is, as I believe, because
we do not truly acknowledge that our Lord is the ground on
which our prayer grows,
and also that we do not recognize that prayer is given us by the
grace of His love.
For if we knew this, it would make us trust that we would
receive, by our Lord’s gift, all that we desire.


I perceived in me five kinds of operations, which are these:

and certain hope:

rejoicing” because God gave me understanding and knowledge that it was Himself that I saw;

mourning,” and that was because of failing;

desire,” and that was that I might see Him ever more and more, understanding and acknowledging that we shall never have full rest till we see Him truly and clearly in heaven;

fear” was because it seemed to me in all that time that that vision would fail and I would be left to myself;

certain hope” was in the endless love, that I saw I would be protected by His mercy and brought to His bliss, and rejoicing in His sight with this certain hope of His merciful protection gave me understanding and comfort so that mourning and fear were not greatly painful.

And yet in all this I beheld in the showing of God that this kind of vision of Him cannot be constant in this life — and that for His own honor and for increase of our endless joy.

And therefore we are frequently without the sight of Him,
and at once we fall into ourselves,
and then we discover no sense of rightness — nothing but the
contrariness that is within ourselves
(and that from the ancient root of our First Sin with all that
follows after from our own contrivance)
and in this we are troubled and tempted with a sense of sins and
of pains in many different ways, spiritually and bodily, as it is
familiar to us in this life.


But our good Lord, the Holy Spirit
(who is endless life dwelling in our soul),
full safely keeps us,
and makes a peace in the soul,
and brings it to rest by grace,
and makes it submissive,
and reconciles it to God.

And this is the mercy and the way in which our Lord constantly leads us as long as we are here in this changeable life.

Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich, introduced and translated by Fr. John-Julian, OJN. Copyright 2011 by The Order of Julian of Norwich. Used by permission of Paraclete Press.

Image: From Revelations of Divine Love Manuscript 37790, Digital collection of the British Library. Public Domain.

Text First Published December 2009 · Last Featured on October 2022