Teachings of Madame Guyon



Excerpts from The Short and Easy Method of Silent Prayer:

Silent prayer, beyond words, seems difficult for many people. Madame Guyon begins with reassurance: silent prayer is possible for everyone and even absolutely necessary for all those who wish to be saved. It does not pass through the thoughts, because it is the prayer of the heart:

“When, by an act of lively faith you are placed in the Presence of God, recollect some truth wherein there is substance and food; pause gently and sweetly thereon, not to employ the reason, but merely to calm and fix the mind, for you must observe that your principal exercise should ever be the Presence of God; your subject, therefore should rather serve to stay the mind, than exercise the understanding.  […] The lively faith in God, immediately present in our inmost soul, will produce an eager and ardent pressing inwardly into ourselves, and a restraining of all our senses from wandering abroad. […] when […]the soul is sweetly and silently employed on the truths we have read, not in reasoning, but in feeding thereon […]  it must drink in, by way of a brief, loving repose, full of respect and trust, what it has chewed and tasted.”

“Those who have not learnt to read  […] should be taught to begin by an act of profound adoration and abasement before God; and closing the corporeal eyes, endeavor to open those of the soul: they should then collect themselves inwardly […]. They should then say the Lord’s Prayer in their native tongue, […] while thinking of that God who dwells within them and truly wishes to be their Father. […] Let them […] remain a few moments in a respectful silence, waiting to have the will of this, their heavenly Father, made manifest unto them. […] Then, continuing the Lord’s Prayer, let them beseech this King of Glory to reign in them […] then let them be silent. If they feel an inclination to peace and silence, let them discontinue the words of the prayer so long as this state holds; and when it subsides, go on with the second petition, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!” […] And finding that the best employment of the will is to love, they should desire to love God and implore him for his pure love; but all this sweetly and peacefully: and so of the rest of the prayer […]. But they should not overburden themselves with frequent repetitions of the Lord’s Prayer or Hail Marys; for the Lord’s Prayer, once repeated, as I have just described, will produce abundant fruit.”

Here, in Madame Guyon’s instructions, the difference between oraison, or silent prayer, and prayer can be seen. Prayer generally expresses a request, formulated in words; oraison aims to kindle a state of wordless inner presence.

After this first degree of silent prayer, one has to learn how to enter into the second degree of silent prayer:

“If, at the beginning, in forming the act of faith, [the soul] feels some little pleasing sense of the Divine Presence; let it remain there without being troubled for a subject, and proceed no farther, but carefully cherish this state while it continues. As soon as it abates, the will may be excited by some tender affection; and if, by the first moving thereof, it finds itself reinstated in sweet peace, let it there remain: the smothered fire must be gently fanned; but, as soon as it is kindled, we must cease that effort, lest we extinguish it by our own activity.”

Madame Guyon did not conceal that there would be periods of aridity, that it was not as easy as it seemed:

“All our care and attention should, therefore, be to acquire inward recollection: nor let us be discouraged by the pains and difficulties we encounter in this exercise.”


Her spiritual guidance aimed for gentle work, finding out how to “deaden” the passions by “a small return within” No forced or rough approach could give the hoped-for results. She assured her readers that one could know and experience bliss in this life by possessing God who is the supreme good. This repose of the soul that is required is not passive, but, on the contrary, in finding God, one acts differently, through Him:

“Though an action, it is so noble, so peaceful, so full of tranquility, that it appears to the soul as if it did not act at all.”

To achieve this, what is essential is:

“Leaving the past in oblivion, what is to come to Providence, and devoting the present moment to God.”


Source: Journeys in Lands of Awakening and Sainthood