Persevering action of the soul

Persevering action of the soul

In chapter 41 of Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love, Julian writes that prayer is ‘the deliberate and persevering action of the soul.’

That is to say, in our partially redeemed state in which the drawing of the spirit has to compete with the pulling of the flesh - interpreting flesh in the widest sense to include greed, envy, anger and the like - we do not fall into prayer effortlessly as we fall into sleep or the eating of our daily meals. Julian reminds us that prayer has to be worked at. It begins with a deliberate choice and it makes demands on our resolution as we proceed with it.

Yet it will be our experience that as we grow in the grace of God, prayer becomes increasingly the natural desire of the heart. Our cry becomes one with St Augustine: ‘You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you’. Or with the writer of the 42nd Psalm: ‘My soul thirsts for God, even for the living God, when shall I come to appear before the presence of God’.

Such times will increase, says Julian, as the soul opens out to God. ‘The nearer we are to our bliss’, she writes, ‘the more we shall long both by nature and grace.’ ‘And so it will continue’, says Julian, ‘until the day we die, still longing for love.’ We may gratefully acknowledge that Julian’s experience is, in some measure, coming to be our own. Yet we shall be wise not to forget her words that prayer is a deliberate choice calling for resolution and perseverance.

-Robert Llewelyn, Why Pray? Unpublished writings by the former chaplain to the shrine of Julian of Norwich

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