FRIDAY, SECOND WEEK IN LENT
ON MENTAL PRAYER
Consider first, that the great advantages and excellence of prayer are chiefly found in mental prayer, that is to say, in such kind of prayer as is not confined to any form of words, but is made in the secret closet of the heart, where the soul, all alone, finds her God, and entertains herself with him. The advantages of this kind of prayer beyond that which is only vocal are that it brings us nearer to God and to his heavenly light; it employs all the powers of the soul, viz., the memory, the understanding, and the will, about him; it opens the eyes of the soul to the knowledge of God, and of ourselves; and is the true school in which we learn to despise the world and its cheating vanities, and to love God with our whole hearts. O my soul, see thou daily frequent this school of divine love.
Consider 2ndly, that the Saints, and other masters of a spiritual life, have prescribed certain rules and methods of mental prayer, with a variety of subjects, to make the practice easy. According to these rules and methods, the soul begins by placing herself in the presence of her God, and by humbly imploring his divine assistance. Then the memory represents the subject of the prayer, and the understanding is employed in considering the heavenly truths discovered therein, till the will is properly affected therewith, and stirred up to the fear and love of God, to an humble confidence in his goodness, to a sense of gratitude for his benefits, to a horror of sin, to a sincere repentance for past offences, and such like affections, which ought to be followed by good and firm resolutions of avoiding evil and doing good, and in particular, of the immediate amending such failings as one is most subject to. Such is the method of mental prayer, by way of meditation, recommended by St. Ignatius, St. Francis de Sales, and other Saints, and both very easy and beneficial to Christian souls, by its serving greatly to enlighten their understanding and to inflame their will. Give thanks, my soul, to thy God, for the lights he has communicated to his Saints to direct thee in this sovereign exercise of mental prayer; and particularly practise what they recommend, with regard to the insisting principally in thy prayer upon affections and resolutions, lest otherwise thy meditations fall short of answering the chiefest end of prayer, which is the love of God, and the amendment of thy life.
Consider 3rdly, that although this method of mental prayer be excellent, and such as ought to be followed where the soul does not find herself invited and attracted another way; yet as ‘the Spirit breatheth where he will,’ John iii. 8, and as we must not pretend to set bounds or give rules to him who expects to be ever acknowledged as sovereign Lord and King within our souls, and to establish his reign there by mental player, if he should be pleased to advance the soul to the more perfect prayer of contemplation, (in which she finds herself drawn nearer to God, quite alone with him, and absorbed in his love,) she must not be restrained by any of these usual forms or methods, from following that happy call, and thankfully yielding herself up a captive to divine love. For it must ever be the rule of the soul which desires to have the kingdom of God established in her interior, by way of mental prayer, to follow God in his divine attractions yet so as to take a guide along with her for fear of being imposed. upon by taking the suggestions of Satan, or of her own pride and self-love, for the motions of the Spirit of God.
Conclude to exercise thyself daily in mental prayer as the great means to bring thee to God. Let no pretext of business call thee off from this exercise; nothing can be of half so much importance to thy true welfare; ‘tis the very way to heaven. The morning is the best time for it, and half an hour at least ought to be dedicated to it.