*** DEBUG END ***

Prayer for the week

08 March 2013

Marie-Elsa Bragg commends words of Julian of Norwich


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 beseeching?

Revelations of Divine Love
Julian of Norwich (c.1342-1416)

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 Wordsworth:

If 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 time.

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 respond."

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 Westminster Abbey.

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.