…it was discovered to me that you still wanted that which is the foundation of every virtue, and without which the whole superstructure dissolves, and falls in ruins. You want prayer. You want believing, persevering, courageous prayer. And the want of that prayer causes all that drought and disunion from which you say your soul suffers. That which was shown me as the way your lordship is henceforth to pray is this. You are to recollect and accuse yourself of all your sins since your last time of like prayer. You are to divest yourself of everything as if you were that moment to die.
You are to begin by reciting to yourself and to God the Fifty-first Psalm. And after that you must say this. ‘I come, O Lord, Bishop as I am, to Thy children’s school of prayer and obedience. I come to Thee not to teach, but to learn. I will speak to Thee, who am but dust and ashes.’ And all the time set before the eyes of your soul Jesus Christ crucified, and ruminate on Him in some such way as this. Fix your eyes on that stupendous humility of His whereby He so annihilated Himself. Look on His head crowned with thorns. Fix your eyes on His nailed hands, His feet, and His side. Meditate on and interrogate every one of His wounds for you.
It behoves you also to go to prayer with a most entire resignation and submission and pliantness to go that way in religion and in life that God points out to you. Sometimes He will teach you by turning His back on you: and, anon, by lifting up the light of His countenance upon you. Sometimes by shutting you out of His presence, and sometimes by bringing you into His banqueting-house. And you are to receive it all with the same equability of mind, knowing that He always acts for the best. Otherwise you will go to teach God in your prayers, which is not the proper scope and intent of prayer at all. And when you say that you are dust and ashes, you must observe and exhibit the proper quality of such. In our Lord’s prayer in the garden, He requested that the bitterness and the terrible trial He felt in overcoming His human nature might be taken away. He did not ask that His pains might be taken away, but only the disgust wherewith He suffered them. And when it was answered Him that it was not expedient but that He should drink that cup, He had to master that weakness and pusillanimity of the flesh, as must all other men.
One cannot be a great scholar, or even a finished courtier, without great pains and expense; and to be a scholar in the Church, and a minister, and a master in the science of Heaven, cannot be done without long time at school and much hard work.
Teresa of Jesus, on prayer
November 25, 2011 by joyfulpapist