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Cloud of Unknowing
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HERE BEGINNETH THE NINE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

 

How a perfect worker shall pray, and what prayer is in itself; and if a man shall pray in words, which words accord them most to the property of prayer.

 

AND therefore it is, to pray in the height and the deepness, the length and the breadth of our spirit. And that not in many words, but in a little word of one syllable.

And what shall this word be? Surely such a word as is best according unto the property of prayer. And what word is that? Let us first see what prayer is properly in itself, and thereafter we may clearlier know what word will best accord to the property of prayer.

Prayer in itself properly is not else, but a devout intent direct unto God, for getting of good and removing of evil. And then, since it so is that all evil be comprehended in sin, either by cause or by being, let us therefore when we will intentively pray for removing of evil either say, or think, or mean, nought else nor no more words, but this little word “sin.” And if we will intentively pray for getting of good, let us cry, either with word or with thought or with desire, nought else nor no more words, but this word “God.” For why, in God be all good, both by cause and by being. Have no marvel why I set these words forby all other. For if I could find any shorter words, so fully comprehending in them all good and all evil, as these two words do, or if I had been learned of God to take any other words either, I would then have taken them and left these; and so I counsel that thou do.

Study thou not for no words, for so shouldest thou never come to thy purpose nor to this work, for it is never got by study, but all only by grace. And therefore take thou none other words to pray in, although I set these here, but such as thou art stirred of God for to take. Nevertheless, if God stir thee to take these, I counsel not that thou leave them; I mean if thou shalt pray in words, and else not. For why, they be full short words. But although the shortness of prayer be greatly commended here, nevertheless the oftness of prayer is never the rather refrained. For as it is said before, it is prayed in the length of the spirit; so that it should never cease, till the time were that it had fully gotten that that it longed after. Ensample of this have we in a man or a woman afraid in the manner beforesaid. For we see well, that they cease never crying on this little word “out,” or this little word “fire,” ere the time be that they have in great part gotten help of their grief.

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