Quiet, Prayer of

views updated


The prayer of quiet, a form of contemplation, is an intimate awareness of the presence of God that captivates the will and often fills the body and soul with ineffable sweetness and delight. Being a gift of God, it cannot be acquired through personal effort; at the most, one can dispose oneself for it by fidelity to the practice of mental prayer and by cultivation of purity of life. Writing of it in her autobiography (ch. 14) St. Teresa of Avila says: "This state is a recollecting of the faculties within the soul ; the will alone is occupied in such a way that, without knowing how, it becomes captive; the other two faculties [i.e, intellect and memory] help the will so that it may become more and more capable of enjoying so great a blessing, though sometimes it comes about that, even when the will is in union, they hinder it exceedingly." In the prayer of quiet, therefore, the principal activity of the individual is affective; thus it differs from the prayer of recollection, which usually precedes it and centers its activity in the intellect.

The recollection of the will, characteristic of the prayer of quiet, does not necessarily hinder the activity of the other rational powers of man, so that his response to the demands of the active life is not impeded.

The main effects of this form of contemplation are growth in virtue, particularly in detachment; profound joy and peace; and a sense of the nearness of God, although the last is not always clearly perceived. A possible effect can be the gift of tears.

Very similar to the prayer of quiet is the phenomenon caused by exhaustion of the rational faculties through inordinate concentration upon spiritual matters, especially in prayer. It can be diagnosed by the swiftness with which it passes and the aridity it leaves in the soul.

See Also: contemplation.

Bibliography: teresa of avila, Complete Works, ed. silverio de santa teresa, and e. a. peers, 3 v. (New York 1946) v.2, Interior Castle, "4th Mansions." r. garrigoulagrange, The Three Ages of Interior Life, tr. t. doyle, 2 v. (St. Louis 194748). a. f. poulain, The Graces of Interior Prayer, tr. l. l. yorke smith (St. Louis 1950).

[s. v. ramge]