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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

You do me too great an honor. To say that my mind never wanders in prayer is certainly false. Particularly in the church, in time of priestly prayer, my mind wanders in many paths. The explanation, for you as for me, is simply this: a man whose mind is constantly on God does not wander during prayer. A man whose mind is on the world, wanders.

The remedy for this fault is common enough. You must confess this weakness to God, and humble yourself before Him. In your prayers use the simplest of words. Do not think that God is blessed by your wisdom! Rather, in simple words and phrases – the mark of the humble man – bring your praises and petitions.

When I was younger I gave much thought to this. I would fret over my wandering mind – which, naturally, caused it to wander even more from my prayers. Satan was no doubt delighted. But the trick cannot be played forever. At length I realized that my wandering was affecting my confession – so I gave it up. Put the matter plainly to God; He is swift to forgive. He knows we are but flesh.

As you grow older, think of God more often. Discipline your mind to stay on Him. Then at prayer your mind will not wander.

Do you have any sense of how long it takes me to reply to your letters? I know not; but this one has taken some time. I have been quite ill; indeed, the doctors began to smile at me. They do that when they think you are about to die. It is assumed to cheer the patient, you know. It cheered me not at all; these doctors lie with their teeth bared in silence. But by God’s grace I am mending. One of my grandchildren has been reading from the Psalms, a great comfort. So if I caused worry, I render my apologies. I shall try to stay out of the sickbed.

Weak, but returning, I remain

Isaac the alchemist

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