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Excerpts from 'Devotional Classics' edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) Introduction to the Author Few women in the twentieth century have dome more to further our understanding of the devotional life than Evelyn Underhill. Her scholarly research and writing have helped saints and skeptics alike in her study of religion and spirituality. Her book 'Mysticism: A study in the nature and development of man's spiritual consciousness' has gone through many editions and continues to be a foundational text for all students of spirituality. Underhill was educated at King's College for Women in London, England. After her conversion at the age of 32, she practiced her devotional life with great fervor. She became a well known and sought after conference speaker in the UK and USA as well. In the following excerpt, Underhill describes the inner mechanics of prayer, shedding light on the place of the mind, the emotions and the will in the life of prayer. Excerpts from 'The Essentials of Mysticism' 1. Stretching Out the Tentacles What do we mean by prayer? It is that part of our conscious life which is deliberately oriented towards, and exclusively responds to spiritual reality. God is that spiritual reality and we believe God is immanent in all things. (He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being). Prayer, according to Walter Hilton, is nothing less than ascending or getting up the desire of the heart to God by withdrawing it from earthly thoughts. Prayer is the rising of the soul out of the vanity of time into the riches of eternity, says William Law. Prayer is a going up or out from our ordinary circle of earthly interests. Prayer stretches out the tentacles of our consciousness to the Eternal Truth, the Eternal Love, the God, Himself. 2. Three Faculties First, there are three capacities or faculties which we have under consideration - the thinking faculty, the feeling faculty and the willing or acting faculty. these practically cover all the ways in which the self can react to other selves and other things. From the combination of these three comes all the possibilities of self-expression which are open to us. Do we need them in our spiritual life? Christian are bound to answer this question in the affirmative. It is the whole person of intellect, feeling and will which finds it's only true objective in God. 3. Spiritual Work Prayer should take up and turn towards the spiritual order all the powers of our mental, emotional and volitional life. Prayer should be the highest exercise of these abilities. Prayer will include many different kinds of spiritual work. It will include adoration, petition, meditation, contemplation and all the shades and varieties of these Christianity has developed. 4. The transition from Inaction to Action First we form a concept of that which we shall do, the idea of it looms up in our minds. Second, we feel that we want to do it, or must do it. Third, we determine that we will do it. First we think, then we feel, then we will. 5. An Active and Disciplined Intelligence Prayer, as a rule, ought to begin with something we usually call an intellectual act, with thinking of what we are going to do. All the great writers on prayer take it as a matter of course that 'meditation' comes before 'oration' or spoken prayer. Meditation is simply the art of thinking steadily and methodically about spiritual things. 6. Preparing the Consciousness Prayer then, begins by an intellectual adjustment. By thinking of God earnestly and humbly to the exclusion of other objects or persons by deliberately surrendering the mind to spiritual things, by preparing the consciousness for the inflow of spiritual life. But thinking of God is not enough to commune with Him. There needs to be more. 7. The Industrious Will and the Passionate Heart Where the office of the though ends, the office of feeling and the will begin. Desire and intention are the most dynamic of our faculties; they do work. Reason comes to the foot of the mountain; it is the industrious will urged by the passionate heart which climbs the slope to God in prayer. 8. The Very Center and Art of Prayer Now, intellect and feeling are not wholly in our control. they fluctuate from day to day, hour to hour; they are dependent on many delicate adjustments. Sometimes we are mentally dull, sometimes we are emotionally flat. On such occasions it is necessary to fix our will upon God and pressing toward Him steadily and without deflection; this is at the very center and art of prayer. We must will to commune with God above all else. Read: Acts 17:22-34 Reflection 1. What are the 3 faculties that Evelyn Underhill encourages us to use in our times of prayer? Give concrete examples of how these three work in our own personal prayer times. 2. The mind ought not be left out of our prayer life according to Underhill. How has your intellect helped or hindered your prayer life? 3. The mind may be dull now and again and the emotions flat. What, according to Underhill is always under our control? Why is this important to prayer? 4. Why do you think there is a tendency to devalue the intellect in the spiritual life? 5. Use Underhills 3 part movement of prayer this week. Begin in the mind, making space for God by reflecting on spiritual truths; move to the emotions by concentrating on your desire for God; hold yourself in His presence by a deliberate act of your will.

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