Morning prayer on an African hillside

African iibis

End of a  dry hot summer. The hadeda or African ibis stalking across bleached grass. Wind shaking the  small tree thick with foliage, Halleria  lucida or UmBinza, known  by local Xhosa people as  the ‘all-food tree’ because of its nectar, bark, seed pods, medicinal values. I sit in the shade  reflecting on The Book of Privy Counsel, an exceptional guide to contemplative prayer that was written in the 14th century. It has been my companion both here and in Angola these last years.

Contemplative prayer is the naked and blind intuitive perception of God’s being as our own being and our own source, without words.

When you withdraw to be alone for prayer, remove from your mind everything you’ve been doing or planning to do. Rejects all thoughts, be they good or be they evil. Do not pray with words, unless you’re really drawn to this; or if you do pray with words, pay no attention to whether they are many or few. Do not weigh them or their meaning. Do not be concerned about what kind of prayers you use, because it is unimportant whether or not official liturgical prayers, psalms, hymns, or anthems; whether they are for particular or general intentions; or whether you say them inwardly, by thoughts, or express them aloud, in words.

See that nothing remains in your conscious mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God. Leave it stripped of every particular idea about God, what He is like in Himself or in His works, and keep only the simple awerness that He is as He is. Let Him be thus, I pray you, and force Him not to be otherwise. Search into Him no further, but rest in this faith as on solid ground. This awareness, stripped of ideas and deliberately bound and anchored in faith, should leave your thought and affection in emptiness, except for a naked thought and blind feeling of your own being. It will feel as if your whole desire cried out to God and said:

That which I am I offer to You, O Lord, Without looking to any quality of Your being, But only to the fact that You are; This, and nothing more.


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