But, to do nothing in prayer all the time without the experience of infused contemplation is an unchristian form of passivism or even buddhism. In infused contemplation, God himself produces prayer in us and himself engages various of our faculties very gently such as our will and intellect but without particular thoughts although he may cause us to dwell on some mystery of the faith. St John calls it a general loving knowledge. Accordingly, if various saints, fathers or desert fathers of the Church advised that beginners in the spiritual life should go to prayer by emptying all their faculties of all content or free them from all particular thoughts or images in the imagination, I don’t think this is good or even common sensible. I say ‘if’ because we may need to place what they actually said in some context. Prayer should make us better christians but if we don’t think about anything in prayer, what good is that doing for us especially for beginners?
What is going on here I believe is that if any of these various saints, fathers or desert fathers of the Church counselled freeing the faculties of all or most content in prayer without reference to contemplation or souls being led by contemplation than they mistakenly and probably unconsciously took what is experienced in contemplation by God’s own doing and work and extrapolated that onto what should be done without the experience of contemplation in prayer in which case the soul is virtually doing nothing but simply ‘waiting’ possibly their whole life long for a ‘drink’ of contemplative prayer in order to get something for virtually doing nothing which is not a very good sign of humility. I should mention that there is a kind of acquired simplified prayer or prayer of simple regard that souls practiced in prayer can develop with the help of God’s ordinary grace. So, it is possible that some of the sayings of the Desert Fathers, for instance, may relate to this. The important thing is not to advance ahead of grace but to cooperate with grace and to be amenable to the promptings of the Spirit. Every soul is different.