when you start to pray

“… the best thing you can do when you start to pray, however long or short your time of prayer is to be, is to tell yourself, and mean it, that you are going to die at the end of your prayer. I am not joking when I tell you this: just think how impossible it is to tell yourself – or for anyone living to tell himself or herself – that you are certain of living longer than the time your prayer takes. When you think of this, you will see that it is quite safe to tell yourself that you are going to die, and I advise you to do so. If you do, you will find that the combination of your general sense of your own unworthiness combined with this special feeling of how short a time you have left will make a firm purpose of amendment, will concentrate your mind wonderfully on a proper fear of the Lord.”

An unknown author of the 14th century as quoted in Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines edited by Richard Foster and Emile Griffin [Harper, 2000]

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