I am the
ground of thy beseeching:
first, it is my will that thou have it,
and after, I make thee to will it;
and after, I make thee to beseech it and thou beseechest it.
How should it then be that thou shouldst not have thy
Revelations of Divine Love
Julian of Norwich
THIS prayer is made from words spoken
to Julian of Norwich by Christ in the 14th "Revelation of Divine
Love"; so to use it is to speak from the viewpoint of God. This is
a practice that is challenging, but particularly helpful, in Lent,
Passiontide, and Holy Week.
Before I reach for this
prayer, I am aware of the intention behind it. Julian had this
vision while praying to find the desire for God, or even the desire
to have the desire, when she felt none. It is a companion in what
can be barren times. If in prayer I do find a measure of desire for
God, these words help me petition for it to grow.
The first line resonates
throughout the prayer, and joins with the last. It is such a
beautiful line that I often take it on its own and pray it in
repetition. To beseech in this prayer is to long for and to plead,
with all our suffering and desire, for salvation. In her writings,
Julian describes it as an endless thirst, akin to the thirst of
Jesus on the cross.
The idea that "God is the
ground of my beseeching" awakes in me the memory of the consolation
ex-pressed in "It is a Beauteous Evening" by William
thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine: . .
God being with thee
when we know it not.
Even in the most
disconnected times, this thought gives me solace, and helps me
begin to pray.
Later in the prayer, the
third and fourth lines begin to show me how to walk with him. I am
like a child being taught to will and then beseech, one step at a
Here in Lent, being
taught to beseech by my divine parent is being given language by
example. This language is at its most vivid when we leave the
lonely night in Gethsemane, walk through the trials towards
Calvary, and find ourselves there on Good Friday.
Through these times, I am
given the chance to grow into facing life as an adult, with a
companion in pain, desolation, and courage. There I find the
reciprocation that Julian discusses when she writes elsewhere in
her Revelations: "The power of this longing in Christ enables us to
The final line of this
prayer brings a circular feel to the words, with the repetition of
"beseeching", which brings comfort, almost like being rocked back
and forth as a baby. I am reminded of Julian's vision of Christ as
divine mother. It suggests the strength and consistent presence of
a wise mother, patiently guiding me to stand on my own and know
that I am never alone.
"How should it be then
that thou shouldst not have thy beseeching?" calls again into what
can be the darkest of places to awaken me with its question, which
demands a response. If I am deaf to the words, this prayer reminds
me that I am being called. If I do no more than notice, perhaps I
unwittingly affirm that my desire for God is a gift always given,
always present, even if it is not always felt.
But, if I have been able
to walk some of the way with Christ through Lent, this question
affirms my desire for God. And, while alongside Christ, with hope
and grief bound together, I am given the words again, as a response
to the world and the destructive things that we do.
But, occasionally, when
the lines have been prayed, the resonance of the word "ground"
surfaces as a reminder that beneath my feet in the frosted soil is
rich earth, filled with seeds, bulbs, and nourishment, waiting for
spring. Again, Wordsworth's poem comes to mind:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder-everlastingly.
God being with thee when we know it not.
The Revd Marie-Elsa Bragg is Assistant Curate of St Mary's,
Kilburn, and St James's, West Hampstead, and a Duty Chaplain at