Tersteegen on prayer

Reaching back 266 years for some timeless encouragement, this is from a German pastor in the eighteenth century. 


Dearly Beloved Friend in the Grace of God,

You do well to practice prayer in your own manner.  Continue on without ceasing and you cannot fail; God will make his own precious promise true for you.  Pray and it will be given to you.  No art is more simple and easier in the whole world than to pray incorrectly; indeed, it is no art.  If we think that we cannot pray, it is a sign that we have not yet properly understood what it is to pray.  Prayer is to look to the omnipresent God and to allow oneself to be seen by him.  What is now easier and more simple than to turn our eyes upward and to see the light which surrounds us on all sides?  God is far more present to us than the light.  In him we live, we move, and we are.  He penetrates us, he fills us, he is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.  To believe this in simplicity and to think of this simply as well as one can, that is prayer.  How can it be difficult to allow oneself to be looked after by so kind a physician who knows better what is troubling us than we ourselves know?  We have no need to bring this or that, to present ourselves in this way or in that way, or to look too much, or to experience much it we wish to pray, but we need only simply and briefly to say how we are and how we wish to be; indeed, it is not even necessary that we say this, but we need only allow the ever-present good God to see.  We are not to let him see only the surface but at every point we are to remain by him and before him so that he can see us correctly and heal us.  We must not say anything to him or allow him to see anything other than what is in us.  What will be is what he wills.  If you find yourself disturbed, dark, with no spiritual experiences, simply tell God, and let him see your suffering; then you have prayed properly.  Is there a natural laziness or diffidence at hand?  Take heart but a little and turn again with humility to God.  If one can remain awake standing better than kneeling, let one fight sleep in such a way; if one can do so better by looking in a book, this not forbidden him.  In short, one must help oneself at a particular time as well as one can, so long as one does not disturb one’s chief goal by doing so, namely, prayer, but, rather, always turns oneself again to this task.  Deny your own will and desires and you will pray properly and easily.  For the Lord will work prayer in your soul through his grace.  Remaining in weakness, your trustworthy friend.

Mulheim, December 4th, 1731


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