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By Kenneth E. Kirk
Bishop of Oxford; Hon. Fellow of St. John's and Trinity Colleges, Oxford
pp. 163-164.
Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1920.
Contemplation, or the Prayer of Simplicity or Quiet, is the highest interior activity of the spiritual life - indeed, it aims not at being an activity at all, but at reducing the soul to a purely passive condition in which it may listen, unimpeded by thoughts of self or the cares of the world, to the voice of God alone.  'As rest is the end of motion so contemplation is the end of all other both internal and external exercises; for to this end, by long discourse and much practice of affection, the soul inquires and tends to a worthy object that she may quietly contemplate it and...repose with contentment in it.' 

This is not a place to consider the varied experiences which the mystics have recorded as taking place in the prayer of quiet, nor their consequent formulation of it diversities.  Our purpose is simply to see in what way it can be commended to the ordinary Christian as a practice necessary to his spiritual progress.  In essence it is simplicity itself.  At the end of a meditation, or of a period of aspiring prayer, the soul remains perfectly still, its attention fixed upon God and His goodness, and waits for Him to reveal to it some new beauty in Himself.  Often enough such revelation does not come, often enough it comes merely in the guise of a formless peace which fills the heart and leaves it ready to go out again to serve God in all simplicity.  This is the Practice of the Presence of God of which Brother Lawrence wrote.  Sometimes the answer to the prayer of quiet comes in a new inspiration from God which changes the whole tenour of a life.  The soul must still itself without any special expectation of what is to happen. Union with God through Christ is the end of the spiritual life; and the prayer of quiet is the attempt to taste the joy and power of such a union in perfect dependence upon God.  Here is something which He alone can give; our effort, at the moment when we look for it, will merely obtrude a disturbing element.  After we have given of our best in meditation or aspiration, it remains simply to be still, and let Him give of His best in return. 

Thus contemplation corrects, as it were, the emphasis of the other forms of prayer.  They manifest themselves in human effort; this recurs to the fundamental truth of religion that we can do nothing of ourselves, that all comes from Him.  If at any given time of contemplation the soul experiences nothing, it is no reason to be disturbed.  We open our eyes to see the vision of God, we have opened our ears to hear His words; if for this turn He withholds Himself, it is His will that it should be so.  We have at least witnessed to Him and to ourselves once again that all things come from  Him, and without Him there can be nothing. 

This high spiritual expectation, which is content to wait upon God in absolute quiet, is essential for all who wish to advance in the spiritual life.  It is only in this way that they can have experience not of God's words, or of His providence, or of His power, but of Himself.  Once again it must be repeated that, to any except those who have objective faith in spiritual things, such a practice must be an absurdity, the crudest form of self-suggestion.  But to those who have such faith the prayer of quiet can become not merely a reality, but the greatest reality of all--that in which God and the soul merge wholly into one. 
It need scarcely be pointed out that every one of these forms of prayer finds its consummation in the Holy Eucharist..."