Does Contemplative Prayer Render The Need for Spiritual Reading Void?


If a person has come to recognize the 3 signs of St. John of the Cross as to the entrance into or advancing furthur into Contemplative Prayer, and can no longer meditate discursively, etc. etc., doesn’t continuing to read spiritual books remove one from that state most conducive to fostering the right disposition for that Prayer to become more pure and more advanced?

Would Spiritual Reading take one back into thinking more than loving? Back to the Road the Lord is leading one away from?

St. Theresa the Little Flower says she could not read books anymore except for maybe the Bible and the Imitation of Christ, or the works of St. John of the Cross. once she entered the Dark Night of Contemplation. This is why I ask.


I think you should still do spiritual reading but not during your prayer. If you find contemplation unavailable to you at times then a good book can help at those times too. By plenty of spiritual reading you’ll greatly help your prayer life no matter where you’re at.


First, think of spiritual reading as a “type” of spiritual direction. There are so many minefields contemplatives face - attachment to consolations, dealing with the passive nights, how to respond to extraordinary favors like visions and so on - that I can’t imagine trying to “go it alone.” In fact, that’s usually how we end up with false mystics. :slight_smile:

Secondly, I agree with what John said. Continue with spiritual reading . . . but not at your time of prayer. As you grow in this way of prayer you may find you won’t need much help recollecting yourself anyway. However, the need for learning, support and guidence will never end.

Finally, regarding St. John’s “three signs” that you mention, we learn to let go our meditation when we feel the call through intuition to a more interior way of prayer. We let it go at that time of prayer – not as in “forever.” In the passive night of sense you describe, souls will likely fluctuate between meditation and contemplation for a long, long time before the day comes when meditation is not needed at all (if it comes at all). These souls are the true “Living Flames of Love.”

Dave. :slight_smile:


Thank you all for your replies. May I ask one thing further…with regard to Consolations in Prayer or Seeking Consolations: Does Reading about the advanced stages of prayer mean that one is seeking consolations?


Hi, No. But don’t fall into the trap of seeking consolations or mystical experiences. And if you get any train yourself not to desire them if you can because it will make your mind uneasy and open the door for the enemy to try and deceive you. It’s a journey and can be hard to not want the consolations but try very hard to avoid a desire for these.


No, you’re seeking learning and guidance for what might or might not come your way. Paraphrasing St. Teresa, “you wouldn’t take a trip to an unknown destination without a map would you?” :slight_smile: That’s why we study prayer stages and states and why the Church has given us Doctors like St. Teresa and St. John.

You probably ought to find a spiritual director, though, to help you sort all of this out.



Thanks…wish I Could find a spiritual director, but in my area, you can hardly find a Priest for a private confession, let alone a director. I know that Our Lord will provide for what I need, so I just keep trying to find answers as best I can until He shows me what else I can do or who else I can turn to. You all have been great!


I agree… but I was thinking about this, how ‘open’ should we be to consolations? if we do receive something, would it be right to simply thank God and then move on? Or should we really actively not want them… is it oki to just be open to God’s will, and thank Him whether He sends us consolations or periods of spiritual ‘dryness’?


I think we all should remain open to God’s will. As long as the consolation or desolation is from God, the best thing to do is conforming to His will and be at peace.


adding to Inlights thoughts:

“Consolations are my gift to you; patient endurance in dryness is your gift to me.”

The important thing about consolations is not to cling to them when they come; nor desire or seek them out in their absence.

St. John speaks at great length about all this and specifically singles out souls who practice all sorts of exterior mortifications but crumble like whupped puppy dogs at the first sign of interior dryness. :slight_smile: Consolations and dryness . . . in whatever mix they come to us . . . are both a reflection of His will and what He’s trying to impart to us at that point in time.

Dave. :slight_smile:


You have good answers above. St John of the cross is a genius here. St Teresa of Avila is easier to read for many people. I would read both though. Their both doctors of the church and quite the experts on this.

Just be open to whatever God gives you. Expect nothing but be very grateful if you get anything. If you have a consolation then this is a great sign of affection from our Lord and he is perhaps letting you know your destined for heaven. You are then in his inner circle of closest friends. Be sure to pray to him when this happens because he’s very close and will hear your prayer.

Just abandon yourself to God and take whatever comes your way with gratitude. God bless.:slight_smile:


spiritual reading in any case takes place outside prayer time. It would be well from someone who is discerning his movement into the contemplative phase with a spiritual director to rely on his advice about spiritual reading as well, and limit his reading to those recommendations.


I am a bit confused about the terms, “outside of prayer time” and “during prayer time”. Perhaps to clarify would clear this up a bit. For me, I awake with the love of Jesus and His Praise already in my mind, and I speak immediately to Him. Throughout the day, I speak in my heart to Him. During my daily occupations, I do them with Him. And, then there are formal times of Prayer for the Rosary or Liturgy of the Hours that I pray with Him…so, when is the time I am actually “outside of prayer”? If I want to read, for guidance or learning, and I am feeling His Presence so close, what can a book do that He is not doing Himself???

I am asking this most humbly, please know that. I am genuinely confused here. Bless you all as you try to assist me. Thank you.


In case puzzleannie has gone for a while I’ll tell you what this normally means. She is talking about meditation time. But she is saying when a person moves on to the higher form of prayer which is contemplation you don’t do spiritual reading during this as you may do with meditation. You should consult your spiritual director if you’ve advanced to the higher forms of prayer. You may do 30 mins prayer in the morn and 30 at night. Or just 30 mins at night etc. It’s great if you pray all day but this is one type of prayer that is very important. There are many types of prayer we can do. puzzleannie can explain if she comes back.


Here are some dictionary definitions which may help. There are tons of brilliant books on this important subject.:slight_smile:

MENTAL PRAYER. The form of prayer in which the sentiments expressed are one’s own and not those of another person and the expression of these sentiments is mainly, if not entirely, interior and not externalized. Mental prayer is accomplished by internal acts of the mind and affections and is either simple meditation or contemplation. As meditation, it is a loving and discursive (reflective) consideration of religious truths or some mystery of faith. As contemplation, it is a loving and intuitive (immediately perceptive) consideration and admiration of the same truths or mysteries of faith. In mental prayer the three powers of the soul are engaged: the memory, which offers the mind material for meditation or contemplation; the intellect, which ponders or directly perceives the meaning of some religious truth and its implications for practice; and the will, which freely expresses its sentiments of faith, trust, and love, and (as needed) makes good resolutions based on what the memory and intellect have made known to the will.

CONTEMPLATION. The enjoyable admiration of perceived truth (St. Augustine). Elevation of mind resting on God (St. Bernard). Simple intuition of divine truth that produces love (St. Thomas). (Etym. Latin contemplatio, simple gazing of the mind at manifest truth; from con-, with + templum, open space for observation [by augurs]: contemplari, to observe, consider.)

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER. In general, that form of mental prayer in which the affective sentiments of the will predominate, as distinct from discursive reflections of the mind. Or again, it is that prayer which looks at God by contemplating and adoring his attributes more than by asking him for favors or thanking him for graces received.

CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE. Human life insofar as it is occupied with God and things of the spirit. Compared with the active life, it stresses prayer and self-denial as a means of growing in the knowledge and love of God. As a form of religious life, it identifies “institutes which are entirely ordered towards contemplation, in such wise that their members give themselves over to God alone in solitude and silence, in constant prayer and willing penance” (Perfectae Caritatis, 7).


You could go to a Discalced Carmelite Monastery or a Poor Clare or Cistercian Monastery, and seek direction in prayer there. After all prayer is their business so to speak and since these are cloistered religious, male or female, they may help you advance on your journey of seeking God.




Spiritual reading for many is part of lectio divina and is a form of prayer. Benedictines, Cistercians and Carthusians are very big into lectio divina.



Thank you, John Russel, for taking such time to write out these definitions for me. They are and will be of tremendous help for me in growing in the Lord and in Prayer. Sometimes, when I read, it just doesn’t add up for me, so you having summarized various states of prayer will go a long way. I will print out your definitions and refer to them when I get stuck again in my reading.

I thank everyone who offers their assistance in this forum, because your time and concern for others is so needed and valuable. God Bless you All…T


Hello, Marsha…didn’t see your posts before I replied, so to let you know that I will seek guidance with the Carmelites and already feel that I will find with them a home…actually, not to make a longer story, but have begun this process in search of These answers and Others, as well. :slight_smile:


pureDzire, I think I understand where you come from. But maybe it is better to use my own experience to explain.

I know what you are talking about waking up with the love of Jesus in your heart. Often times when I get up in the middle of the night to the bath room, I will quickly greet the Lord, And as soon as I wake up, I say a rosary before getting out of the bed. I never listen to radio while driving, but pray. I too think of the Lord and being with him in my daily work. But still, I know I am not 24 hours in prayer even though I wish I could.

To me, no matter how constant my recollection is throughout the day, spiritual reading is necessary all the time. To be nourished by the Saints’ writing is not considered as seeking consolation. When I read something I can fully identify with, I would naturally feel consoled and excited. But the comfort and fulfillment are the benefit of my reading, not something I purposely seek after.

Even though I am aware of His constant presence and have all the intention to stay in the “being” status with Him, there are times I am not in recollection. To observe it in this way, it won’t be too hard to understand the term of “outside of prayer time”.

The word of God and the word of Saints can always help us on our spiritual joruney. While we are feeling His presence and reading a spiritual book, we can ask the Holy Spirit help us with a better understanding, let the wisdom of Saints sink into our soul, and assist us to apply virtues and wisdom to our daily lives. Don’t you think?

Hope this makes sense.

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