I want to share with you a portion of Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, written by Jeanne Guyon in 1685. These are some of the most helpful and winsome words ever written on the subject of meditating on Scripture.
Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717) was a French woman, widowed at the age of 28 after an unhappy marriage. She was a mystic and spiritual counselor whose writing of A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer (later re-named Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ) evoked immediate controversy: stirring many in France to greater devotion to Christ, but leading to persecution and book burnings by the religious authorities of her day who believed her emphasis on quiet prayer undermined religious duty.
Guyon’s book has become one of the most widely read Classic Devotional Books of all time and had profound influence on many great Christian leaders including Watchman Nee, John Wesley, the early Quakers, and Hudson Taylor.
Her words inspire beginners and the mature alike to devote themselves wholly to loving and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. She shows us the way to become like the Psalm 1 Man who meditates on the words of God and is enabled to bear much fruit.
Read slowly. Pray deeply. And take heart for Christ!
Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ with Jeanne Guyon
In 1685 Jeanne Guyon wrote Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ. It is one of the all time greatest Classics of Christian Devotion. Here are some of her words that are especially inspiring…
My 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 invite the simple and the child-like to approach their Father.
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.
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.
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. If you are starving and can find nothing to satisfy your hunger, then come. Come, and you will be filled.
You who are weighted down with your load of wretchedness and your load of pain, come. You will be comforted!
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.
You may think yourself the one farthest from a deep experience with the Lord; but, in fact, the Lord has especially chosen you! You are the one most suited to know Him well.
A Simple Way to Give your Heart to the Lord
So let no one feel let 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.
How then will you come to the Lord to know Him in such a deep way? 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, the prayer of simplicity.
Oh yes, there is one thing to be concerned about. 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 ned only to know how 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.
I would like to address you as though you were a beginner in Christ, one seeking to know Him. Let me suggest two ways for you to come to the Lord… ‘praying the Scripture’ and ‘beholding the Lord.’
‘Praying the Scripture’ involves both reading and prayer. Turn to the Scripture. Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.
In the past it may habit, while reading, to move very quickly from one verse of Scripture to another until you had read the whole passage. Perhaps you were seeking to find the main point of the passage.
But in coming to the Lord by means of ‘praying the Scripture’ you do not read quickly; you read very slowly. You do not move from one passage to another, until you have sensed the very heart of what you have read. You may then want to take that portion of Scripture that has touched you and turn it into prayer.
‘Praying the Scripture’ is not judged by how much you read but by the way in which you read. If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.
Of course, there is a kind of reading the Scripture for scholarship and for study — but not here. To receive any deep, inward profit from the Scripture, you must read as I have described. Plunge into the 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.
The second kind of prayer is ‘beholding the Lord’ or ‘waiting on the Lord’ [and it] also makes use of the Scripture but it is not actually a time of reading.
In ‘praying the Scripture’ you are seeking to find the Lord in what you are reading, in the very words themselves. In this path, therefore, the content of the Scripture is the focal point of your attention. But in ‘beholding the Lord’ you come to the Lord in a totally different way. As you come before your Lord to sit in His presence, beholding Him, make use of the Scripture to quiet your mind.
The way to do this is really quite simple. First, read a passage of Scripture. As you read, pause. The pause should be quite gentle. You have paused so that you may set your mind on the Spirit. You have set your mind inwardly – on Christ. Once you sense the Lord’s presence, the content of what you have read is no longer important. The Scripture has served its purpose; it has quieted your mind; it has brought you to Him.
By faith you can hold your heart in the Lord’s presence. Now, waiting before Him, turn all your attention toward your spirit. Do not allow your mind to wander. If your mind begins to wander, just turn your attention back to the inward parts of your being.
Remember, the Lord once promised to come and make His home within you (John 14:23).
It is not that you will think about what you have read, but you will feed upon what you have read. Out of a love for the Lord you exert your will to hold your mind quiet before Him. When you have come to this state, you must allow your mind to rest.
How shall I describe what to do next? In this very peaceful state, swallow what you have tasted. This is like enjoying the flavor of a very tasty food. In this quiet, peaceful state, simply take in what is there as nourishment. Stay with what the Lord has revealed to you; stay there just as long as the sense of the Lord is also there.
The awareness of His presence will eventually begin to decrease. When this happens, utter some words of love to the Lord or simply call on His name. Do this quietly and gently with a believing heart. In so doing, you will once again be brought back to the sweetness of His presence!
Don’t try to deal with wandering thoughts by changing what you are thinking. If you pay attention to what you are thinking, you will only irritate your mind and stir it up more. Instead, withdraw from your mind! Keep turning within to the Lord’s presence.
Through many years of habit your mind has acquired the ability to wander all over the world, just as it pleases; so what I speak of here is something that is to serve as a discipline to your mind.
Be assured that as your soul becomes more accustomed to withdrawing to inward things, this process will become much easier. There are two reasons that you will find it easier to each time to bring your mind under subjection to the Lord. One is that the mind, after much practice, will form a new habit of turning deep within. The second is that you have a gracious Lord!
The Lord’s chief desire is to reveal Himself to you and, in order for Him to do that, He gives you abundant grace. The Lord gives you the experience of enjoying His presence. He touches you, and His touch is so delightful that, more than ever, you are drawn inwardly to Him.
(From Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon, written in 1685. Excerpts are taken from portions of the preface, chapters 1, 2, and 4 and include minor editing and rearranging. Italics added.)