“I am the Ground of thy beseeching.” “Also to prayer belongeth thanking”
After this our Lord shewed concerning Prayer. In which Shewing I see two conditions in our Lord’s signifying: one is rightfulness, another is sure trust.
But yet oftentimes our trust is not full: for we are not sure that God heareth us, as we think because of our unworthiness, and because we feel right nought, (for we are as barren and dry oftentimes after our prayers as we were afore); and this, in our feeling our folly, is cause of our weakness. For thus have I felt in myself.
And all this brought our Lord suddenly to my mind, and shewed these words, and said: I am Ground of thy beseeching: first it is my will that thou have it; and after, I make thee to will it; and after, I make thee to beseech it and thou beseechest it. How should it then be that thou shouldst not have thy beseeching?
And thus in the first reason, with the three that follow, our good Lord sheweth a mighty comfort, as it may be seen in the same words. And in the first reason,—where He saith: And thou beseechest it, there He sheweth [His] full great pleasance, and endless meed that He will give us for our beseeching. And in the second reason, where He saith: How should it then be? etc., this was said for an impossible [thing]. For it is most impossible that we should beseech mercy and grace, and not have it. For everything that our good Lord maketh us to beseech, Himself hath ordained it to us from without beginning. Here may we see that our beseeching is not cause of God’s goodness; and that shewed He soothfastly in all these sweet words when He saith: I am [the] Ground.—And our good Lord willeth that this be known of His lovers in earth; and the more that we know [it] the more should we beseech, if it be wisely taken; and so is our Lord’s meaning.
Beseeching is a true, gracious, lasting will of the soul, oned and fastened into the will of our Lord by the sweet inward work of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord Himself, He is the first receiver of our prayer, as to my sight, and taketh it full thankfully and highly enjoying; and He sendeth it up above and setteth it in the Treasure, where it shall never perish. It is there afore God with all His Holy continually received, ever speeding [the help of] our needs; and when we shall receive our bliss it shall be given us for a degree of joy, with endless worshipful thanking from Him.
Full glad and merry is our Lord of our prayer; and He looketh thereafter and He willeth to have it because with His grace He maketh us like to Himself in condition as we are in kind: and so is His blissful will. Therefore He saith thus: Pray inwardly, though thee thinketh it savour thee not: for it is profitable, though thou feel not, though thou see nought; yea, though thou think thou canst not. For in dryness and in barrenness, in sickness and in feebleness, then is thy prayer well-pleasant to me, though thee thinketh it savour thee nought but little. And so is all thy believing prayer in my sight. For the meed and the endless thanks that He will give us, thereforHe is covetous to have us pray continually in His sight. God accepteth the goodwill and the travail of His servant, howsoever we feel: wherefore it pleaseth Him that we work both in our prayers and in good living, by His help and His grace, reasonably with discretion keeping our powers [turned] to Him, till when that we have Him that we seek, in fulness of joy: that is, Jesus. And that shewed He in the Fifteenth [Revelation], farther on, in this word: Thou shalt have me to thy meed.
And also to prayer belongeth thanking. Thanking is a true inward knowing, with great reverence and lovely dread turning ourselves with all our mights unto the working that our good Lord stirreth us to, enjoying and thanking inwardly. And sometimes, for plenteousness it breaketh out with voice, and saith: Good Lord, I thank Thee! Blessed mayst Thou be! And sometime when the heart is dry and feeleth not, or else by temptation of our enemy,—then it is driven by reason and by grace to cry upon our Lord with voice, rehearing His blessed Passion and His great Goodness; and the virtue of our Lord’s word turneth into the soul and quickeneth the heart and entereth it by His grace into true working, and maketh it pray right blissfully. And truly to enjoy our Lord, it is a full blissful thanking in His sight.
“Prayer is a right understanding of that fulness of joy that is to come, with accordant longing and sure trust”
Our Lord God willeth that we have true understanding, and specially in three things that belong to our prayer. The first is: by whom and how that our prayer springeth. By whom, He sheweth when He saith: I am [the] Ground; and how, by His Goodness: for He saith first: It is my will. The second is: in what manner and how we should use our prayer; and that is that our will be turned unto the will of our Lord, enjoying: and so meaneth He when He saith: I make thee to will it. The third is that we should know the fruit and the end of our prayers: that is, that we be oned and like to our Lord in all things; and to this intent and for this end was all this lovely lesson shewed. And He will help us, and we shall make it so as He saith Himself;—Blessed may He be!
For this is our Lord’s will, that our prayer and our trust be both alike large. For if we trust not as much as we pray, we do not full worship to our Lord in our prayer, and also we tarry and pain our self. The cause is, as I believe, that we know not truly that our Lord is [the] Ground on whom our prayer springeth; and also that we know not that it is given us by the grace of His love. For if we knew this, it would make us to trust to have, of our Lord’s gift, all that we desire. For I am sure that no man asketh mercy and grace with true meaning, but if mercy and grace be first given to him.
But sometimes it cometh to our mind that we have prayed long time, and yet we think to ourselves that we have not our asking. But herefor should we not be in heaviness. For I am sure, by our Lord’s signifying, that either we abide a better time, or more grace, or a better gift. He willeth that we have true knowing in Himself that He is Being; and in this knowing He willeth that our understanding be grounded, with all our mights and all our intent and all our meaning; and in this ground He willeth that we take our place and our dwelling, and by the gracious light of Himself He willeth that we have understanding of the things that follow. The first is our noble and excellent making; the second, our precious and dearworthy again-buying; the third, all-thing that He hath made beneath us, [He hath made] to serve us, and for our love keepeth it. Then signifieth He thus, as if He said: Behold and see that I have done all this before thy prayers; and now thou art, and prayest me. And thus He signifieth that it belongeth to us to learn that the greatest deeds be [already] done, as Holy Church teacheth; and in the beholding of this, with thanking, we ought to pray for the deed that is now in doing: and that is, that He rule and guide us, to His worship, in this life, and bring us to His bliss. And therefor He hath done all.
Then signifieth He thus: that we [should] see that He doeth it, and that we [should] pray therefor. For the one is not enough. For if we pray and see not that He doeth it, it maketh us heavy and doubtful; and that is not His worship. And if we see that He doeth, and we pray not, we do not our debt, and so may it not be: that is to say, so is it not [the thing that is] in His beholding. But to see that He doeth it, and to pray forthwithal,—so is he worshipped and we sped. All-thing that our Lord hath ordained to do, it is His will that we pray therefor, either in special or in general. And the joy and the bliss that it is to Him, and the thanks and the worship that we shall have therefor, it passeth the understanding of creatures, as to my sight.
For prayer is a right understanding of that fulness of joy that is to come, with well-longing and sure trust. Failing of our bliss that we be kindly ordained to, maketh us to long; true understanding and love, with sweet mind in our Saviour, graciously maketh us to trust. And in these two workings our Lord beholdeth us continually: for it is our due part, and His Goodness may no less assign to us.
Thus it belongeth to us to do our diligence; and when we have done it, then shall us yet think that [it] is nought,—and sooth it is. But if we do as we can, and ask, in truth, for mercy and grace, all that faileth us we shall find in Him. And thus signifieth He where He saith: I am Ground of thy beseeching. And thus in this blessed word, with the Shewing, I saw a full overcoming against all our weakness and all our doubtful dreads.
“Prayer uniteth the soul to God”
Prayer oneth the soul to God. For though the soul be ever like to God in kind and substance, restored by grace, it is often unlike in condition, by sin on man’s part. Then is prayer a witness that the soul willeth as God willeth; and it comforteth the conscience and enableth man to grace. And thus He teacheth us to pray, and mightily to trust that we shall have it. For He beholdeth us in love and would make us partners of His good deed, and therefore He stirreth us to pray for that which it pleaseth him to do. For which prayer and good will, that we have of His gift, He will reward us and give us endless meed.
And this was shewed in this word: And thou beseechest it. In this word God shewed so great pleasance and so great content, as though He were much beholden to us for every good deed that we do (and yet it is He that doeth it) because that we beseech Him mightily to do all things that seem to Him good: as if He said: What might then please me more than to beseech me, mightily, wisely, and earnestly, to do that thing that I shall do?
And thus the soul by prayer accordeth to God.
But when our courteous Lord of His grace sheweth Himself to our soul, we have that [which] we desire. And then we see not, for the time, what we should more pray, but all our intent with all our might is set wholly to the beholding of Him. And this is an high unperceivable prayer, as to my sight: for all the cause wherefor we pray it, is oned into the sight and beholding of Him to whom we pray; marvellously enjoying with reverent dread, and with so great sweetness and delight in Him that we can pray right nought but as He stirreth us, for the time. And well I wot, the more the soul seeth of God, the more it desireth Him by His grace.
But when we see Him not so, then feel we need and cause to pray, because of failing, for enabling of our self, to Jesus. For when the soul is tempested, troubled, and left to itself by unrest, then it is time to pray, for to make itself pliable and obedient to God. (But the soul by no manner of prayer maketh God pliant to it: for He is ever alike in love.)
And this I saw: that what time we see needs wherefor we pray, then our good Lord followeth us, helping our desire; and when we of His special grace plainly behold Him, seeing none other needs, then we follow Him and He draweth us unto Him by love. For I saw and felt that His marvellous and plentiful Goodness fulfilleth all our powers; and therewith I saw that His continuant working in all manner of things is done so goodly, so wisely, and so mightily, that it overpasseth all our imagining, and all that we can ween and think; and then we can do no more but behold Him, enjoying, with an high, mighty desire to be all oned unto Him,—centred to His dwelling,—and enjoy in His loving and delight in His goodness.
And then shall we, with His sweet grace, in our own meek continuant prayer come unto Him now in this life by many privy touchings of sweet spiritual sights and feeling, measured to us as our simpleness may bear it. And this is wrought, and shall be, by the grace of the Holy Ghost, so long till we shall die in longing, for love. And then shall we all come into our Lord, our Self clearly knowing, and God fully having; and we shall endlessly be all had in God: Him verily seeing and fully feeling, Him spiritually hearing, and Him delectably in-breathing, and [of] Him sweetly drinking.
And then shall we see God face to face, homely and fully. The creature that is made shall see and endlessly behold God which is the Maker. For thus may no man see God and live after, that is to say, in this deadly life. But when He of His special grace will shew Himself here, He strengtheneth the creature above its self, and He measureth the Shewing, after His own will, as it is profitable for the time.
- MS.: “And this in our felyng our foly is cause of our wekenes.” S. de Cressy: “And thus in our feelings our folly is cause of our weakness.” ↵
- “of” = by, from. ↵
- “inderly” = inwardly—or from the heart: heartily, as in lxvi. ↵
- i.e. Faculties.—MS. “Mights.” ↵
- “Grante mercy” = grand-merci. ↵
- “entrith,” leadeth. ↵
- i.e. torment, tire, hinder. ↵
- “rythwis” = right manner of. ↵
- Or: ‘And for these two workings our Lord looketh to us continually.’ See above: “so is it not in His beholding,” and chap. xliii. “for He beholdeth us in love and would make us partners of His good deed.” ↵
- “supple and buxum.” ↵
- To express the fulness of spiritual perception the mystic seizes on all the five sense-perceptions as symbols. For the last word S. de Cressy gives again the word “smelling” (rendered here, above, by “in-breathing”). Collins reads the Brit. Mus. MS. as “following”; but the word there is “swelowyng” = swallowing. ↵