I read a portion of Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics* this morning in my quiet time. I read about Madame Jeanne Guyon, a French woman who spent nearly twenty-five years of her life imprisoned in Vincennes and the Bastille because of her religious beliefs. A gifted writer, she had a way of writing which ushers the reader into a living experience of Jesus Christ. Her book, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, contains some thoughts about a devoted life which have had profound and lasting effects on those seeking piety and holiness.
One thought I was particularly touched by was the concept of “praying scripture,” and then “beholding the Lord or “waiting in his presence.” By prayerfully reading a very small portion of simple, practical scripture, and turning it into a prayer to God, I am able to sense the heart of what I have read.
She talked of this type of prayerful reading as analogous to how a bee penetrates the depths of a flower, extracting the sweetest nectar. She wrote, “Plunge into very depths of the words you read until revelation, like a sweet aroma, breaks out upon you. I am quite sure that if you will follow this course, little by little you will come to experience a very rich prayer that flows from your inward being.”
Another way of encountering Christ through the Word is what she described as “waiting in his presence.” It is this experience I miss when I pray scripture and then launch into my day. By savoring what I have read and prayed, I am able to come to the Lord in a totally different way. This helps me start my day with God’s heart and love for those around me.
Too often I want to analyze, intellectualize or journal what I have encountered in scripture. As I read her teaching, I realized that by following praying the scriptures with waiting in his presence, I am able to swallow what I have tasted in the Word. She wrote, “In this very peaceful state, swallow what you have tasted. At first this may seem difficult, but perhaps I can show you a simple way. Have you not, at times, enjoyed the flavor of a very tasty food? But unless you were willing to swallow the food, you received no nourishment. It is the same with your soul. In this quiet, peaceful and simple state simply take in what is there as nourishment.”
In order to behold the Lord or wait in his presence, my mind has to be stilled and quieted. Madame Guyon encourages me to pause so I may set my mind on the Spirit. In Colossians 1:27 Paul affirms, as he does in many of the other letters he wrote to the early Christians, that Christ lives in me. My body, my mind, has become the Holy of Holies. Madame Guyon wrote, “The Lord is found . . . in the recesses of your being, in the Holy of Holies; this is where he dwells.”
Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. ~Colossians 3:11b
Before reading the passage of Devotional Classics which contains the excerpt from Madame Guyon’s writing, I had prayerfully read Psalm 43, fixing my thoughts on these words of the psalmist:
For you are my God, my only safe haven.
Send out your light and your truth;
Let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
To the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God,
To God—the source of all my joy.
After reading Madame Guyon’s words, I more deeply realized that the altar of God, the holy mountain where he lives, is within me—this is where I experience the presence of my Lord, the source of all my joy.
I’m curious about your experience: how do you “swallow” what you have read or prayed?
I’m curious about your encounter with Jesus Christ: what helps you be still before him?
*Devotional Classics, edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith. HaperCollins Publishers, New York, NY: 1993.