Written in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century.
This little book, conceived in great simplicity, was not written to be published. I wrote it for a few individuals who desired to love God with all their hearts. But because of the profit they received from reading the manuscript, many asked to obtain their own personal copy. It was because of these requests that this little book was committed to the press.
I have left the book in its original simplicity. It contains no criticism of the teachings of others who have written concerning spiritual things. On the contrary, it enforces those teachings.
I now submit the entire book to the judgment of learned and experienced men with but this request: Please do not stop at the surface but enter into my main purpose in writing. That purpose is to induce the whole world to love God and to serve Him in a way that is easier and simpler than any could imagine.
I have intentionally written this book to those dear, simple followers of Jesus Christ who are not qualified for intensive research but who, nonetheless, desire to be wholly given to God.
The reader who comes to this book - without prejudice - will find, hidden beneath the simplest expressions, a secret unction. This unction will excite him to seek after that inward happiness which all the Lord's disciples should wish to lay hold of and enjoy.
I have stated that perfection can easily be attained, and this is true. Jesus Christ is perfection, and when we seek Him within ourselves, He is easily found.
But perhaps you will reply, "Did the Lord not say, 'You shall seek me and shall not find me.'?" (John 7:34) Ah, but your Lord, who cannot contradict Himself, also said to all, "Seek, and you shall find." (Matthew 7:7)
Yes, it is true, if you seek the Lord and yet are unwilling to stop your sinning, you shall not find Him. Why? Because you are seeking Him in a place where He is not. Therefore, it is said, "You shall die in your sins."
But if you will take the trouble to seek God in your own heart, and if you sincerely forsake your sins so that you may draw near to Him, you shall infallibly find Him.
I realize that the prospect of living a "life of piety" is frightening to most Christians. And prayer is viewed as a very difficult attainment. Consequently, most believers are too discouraged at the very outset even to take the first step in this direction. It is true that if you consider the difficulty of some new undertaking, it can cause you to despair and make you reluctant to begin. On the other hand, the desirability of such an adventure - and the idea that it may easily be accomplished - can cause you to launch out with vigor.
This book, therefore, lights the way to the desirability, the pleasure, the advantages and the ease of these two matters: Prayer and piety.
Oh, if only once we could be convinced of God's goodness towards His children and of His desire to reveal Himself to them! We would no longer seek our own selfish desires. We would not be so quickly discouraged from pursuing what He is so longing to give us.
He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not, with Him, also freely give us all things? - Romans 8:32
We only need a little courage and perseverance. Actually, we have enough of both in our earthly affairs, but none at all in the only thing that really matters. (Luke 10:42).
Some of you may doubt that God can actually be found so easily. If so, do not merely take my word for it. Instead, try for yourselves what I am proposing to you. For I am sure that your own experience will convince you that the reality is far greater than what I have told you.
Beloved reader, read this little book with a sincere and honest spirit. Read it in lowliness of mind without the inclination to criticize. If you do, you will not fail to reap profit from it. I have written this book with a desire that you might wholly give yourself to God.
Please receive this book with that same desire in your own heart.
This book has no other purpose than this: To invite the simple and the child-like to approach their Father....a Father who delights in seeing the humble confidence of His children and is grieved by their distrust.
Therefore, with a sincere desire for your own salvation, seek nothing from this book except the love of God. With such an expectation you shall assuredly obtain that love.
I am not saying that this way is better than that of someone else. I am only honestly declaring, from my own experience and that of others, the joy found in following the Lord in this way.
There are many other subjects we could touch upon - things of great spiritual significance - but because they do not immediately relate to our main subject, experiencing Jesus Christ, they have been omitted. Without a doubt, nothing will be found here that will offend if only the little book is read in the same spirit in which it was written. Even more certainly, those who earnestly make trial of this way will find that I have written the truth.
Oh Holy Jesus, it is You alone who love the simple and innocent. It is Your "delight to dwell with the children of men," (Proverbs 8:3) with those who are willing to become "little children." (Matthew 18:3) You are the only One who can cause this little book to be of any value. Beloved Lord, write it on the hearts of those who read it and lead them to seek You within themselves. It is there that You rest, as in the manger, waiting to receive proofs of their love and to give them testimonies of Yours in return. Oh, it is true that the fault is theirs for not experiencing all that You are so willing to give. And yet - oh, Child Almighty, Uncreated Love, Silent and All-containing Word - it is really up to You to make Yourself loved, enjoyed and understood. You can do it, and I know that You will do it in this little book, for it belongs entirely to You; it came wholly out of You; and it points only to You.
If you are starving and can find nothing to satisfy your hunger, then come. Come, and you will be filled.
FROM THE SHALLOWS TO THE DEPTHS
As you pick up this book, you may feel that you simply are not one of those people capable of a deep experience with Jesus Christ. Most Christians do not feel that they have been called to a deep, inward relationship to their Lord. But we have all been called to the depths of Christ just as surely as we have been called to salvation.
When I speak of this "deep, inward relationship to Jesus Christ," what do I mean? Actually, it is very simple. It is only the turning and yielding of your heart to the Lord. It is the expression of love within your heart for Him.
You will recall that Paul encourages us to "pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) The Lord also invites us to "watch and pray." (Mark 13:33, 37) It is apparent from these two verses, as well as many more, that we all live by this kind of experience, this prayer, just as we live by love.
Once the Lord spoke and said, "I counsel you to buy from me gold tried in the fire that you may be rich." (Revelation 3:18) Dear reader, there is gold available to you. This gold is much more easily obtained than you could ever imagine. It is available to you. The purpose of this book is to launch you into this exploration and into this discovery.
I give you an invitation: If you are thirsty, come to the living waters. Do not waste your precious time digging wells that have no water in them. (John 7:37; Jeremiah 2:13)
If you are starving and can find nothing to satisfy your hunger, then come. Come, and you will be filled.
You who are poor, come.
You who are afflicted, come.
You who are weighted down with your load of wretchedness and your load of pain, come. You will be comforted!
You who are sick and need a physician, come. Don't hesitate because you have diseases. Come to your Lord and show Him all your diseases, and they will be healed!
Dear child of God, your Father has His arms of love open wide to you. Throw yourself into His arms. You who have strayed and wandered away as sheep, return to your Shepherd. You who are sinners, come to your Savior.
I especially address those of you who are very simple and you who are uneducated, even you who cannot read and write. You may think you are the one person most incapable of this abiding experience of Christ, this prayer of simplicity. You may think yourself the one farthest from a deep experience with the Lord; but, in face, the Lord has especially chosen you! You are the one most suited to know Him well.
So let no one feel left out. Jesus Christ has called us all.
Oh, I suppose there is one group who is left out!
Do not come if you have no heart. You see, before you come, there is one thing you must do: You must first give your heart to the Lord.
"But I do not know how to give my heart to the Lord."
Well, In this little book you will learn what it means to give your heart to the Lord and how to make that gift to Him.
Let me ask you, then, do you desire to know the Lord in a deep way? God has made such an experience, such a walk, possible for you. He has made it possible through the grace He has given to all His redeemed children. He has done it by means of His Holy Spirit.
How then will you come to the Lord to know Him in such a deep way? Prayer is the key. But I have in mind a certain kind of prayer. It is a kind of prayer that is very simple and yet holds the key to perfection and goodness - things found only in God Himself. The type of prayer that I have in mind will deliver you from enslavement to every sin. It is a prayer that will release to you every Godly virtue.
You see, the only way to be perfect is to walk in the presence of God. The only way you can live in His presence in uninterrupted fellowship is by means of prayer, but a very special kind of prayer. It is a prayer that leads you into the presence of God and keeps you there at all times; a prayer that can be experienced under any conditions, any place, and any time.
Is there really such a prayer? Does such an experience with Christ truly exist?
Yes, there is such a prayer! A prayer that does not interfere with your outward activities or your daily routine.
There is a kind of prayer that can be practiced by kings, by priests, by soldiers, by laborers, by children, by women, and even by the sick.
May I hasten to say that the kind of prayer I am speaking of is not a prayer that comes from your mind. It is a prayer that begins in the heart. It does not come from your understanding or your thoughts. Prayer offered to the Lord from your mind simply would not be adequate. Why? Because your mind is very limited. The mind can pay attention to only one thing at a time. Prayer that comes out of the heart is not interrupted by thinking! I will go so far as to say that nothing can interrupt this prayer, the prayer of simplicity.
Oh yes, there is one thing. Selfish desires can cause this prayer to cease. But even here there is encouragement, for once you have enjoyed your Lord and tasted the sweetness of His love, you will find that even your selfish desires no longer hold any power. You will find it impossible to have pleasure in anything except Him.
I realize that some of you may feel that you are very slow, that you have a poor understanding, and that you are very unspiritual. Dear reader, there is nothing in this universe that is easier to obtain than the enjoyment of Jesus Christ! Your Lord is more present to you than you are to yourself! Furthermore, His desire to give Himself to you is greater than your desire to lay hold of Him.
How, then, do you begin? You need only one thing. You need only to know how to seek Him. When you have found the way to seek Him, you will discover that this way to God is more natural and easier than taking a breath.
By this "prayer of simplicity," this experiencing of Christ deep within, you may live by God Himself with less difficulty and with less interruption than you now live by the air which you take into you. If this is true, then I ask, wouldn't it be a sin not to pray? Yes, it would be a sin. But once you have learned how to seek Jesus Christ and how to lay hold of Him, you will find the way so easy that you will no longer neglect this relationship to your Lord.
Let us go on, therefore, and learn this simple way to pray.
Next week: Launching Out