“You only need a naked intent for God. When you long for him, that’s enough”

Thoughts will come. If you find yourself obsessed with the one pressing down on you from above, trespassing between you and that darkness, and asking, “What are you looking for? What do you want?” tell it that you want only God—“I crave God. I seek him and nothing else.” If the thought persists, asking you who God is, say that God is the One whose grace made you and redeemed you and gave you this work, which is love. Then add, “And you’re in no position to understand him. So sit back down. Be still.” For the love of God, dismiss these thoughts, even though they sound holy and helpful.

You’ll find thoughts seducing you in other ways. For example, a thought may remind you of the many times God has been kind to you and how he is amazingly sweet and loving, full of grace and mercy. It likes nothing better than to grab your attention, and once it knows you’re listening, the thought will start rambling. It will chatter on about Christ’s Passion, drawing you in more and more, and then it will show you God’s miraculous, sacrificial kindness. The thought loves you when you listen to it. Next, it will let you see how you used to live, when you were miserable and sinful, and as you begin thinking on those days, it will help you visualize where you lived at that time, and before you know it, your mind is scattered all over the place. How did this happen? You listened to the thought. You answered it, embraced it, and set it free. …

So, when you feel drawn by grace to this work and decide to do it, lift your heart to him with a humble stirring of love. Focus on the God who made you and ransomed you and led you to this work. Think of nothing else. Even these thoughts are superfluous. Instead, do what pleases you. You only need a naked intent for God. When you long for him, that’s enough.

If you want to gather this focus into one word, making it easier to grasp, select a little word of one syllable, not two. The shorter the word, the more it helps the work of the spirit. God or love works well. Pick one of these or any other word you like, as long as it is one syllable. Fasten it to your heart. Fix your mind on it permanently, so nothing can dislodge it.

This word will protect you. It will be your shield and spear, whether you ride out into peace or conflict. Use it to beat on the dark cloud of unknowing above you. With it, knocking down every thought, and they’ll lie down under the cloud of forgetting below you. Whenever an idea interrupts you to ask, “What do you want?” answer with this one word. If the thought continues—if, for example, it offers out of its profound erudition to lecture you on your chosen word, expounding its etymology and connotations for you—tell it that you refuse to analyze the word, that you want your word whole, not broken into pieces. If you’re able to stick to your purpose, I’m positive the thought will go away. Why? When you refuse to let it feed on the kinds of sweet meditations that we mentioned earlier, it vanishes.

The Cloud of Unknowing

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4 Responses to “You only need a naked intent for God. When you long for him, that’s enough”

  1. Michelle says:

    This monk suggests “God” or ” love,” but I wonder if he would approve of “help?” I have not read this book so I do not know if this word accomplishes what he intends. But I do know that for me calling out “God,” or even “love,” would always come forth from within as a plea for help anyway.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Michelle, perhaps you might want to ask the Spirit to propose the “word” that is appropriate and right for you. Ron DelBene made this suggestion years ago in his book The Breath of God.

      Though the monk teaches a one syllable word, I suspect that most practitioners of this kind of contemplative prayer would not so restrict themselves. Short words and phrases are equally workable. I use the shorter version of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.” Others use “Father,” “Jesus,” “Abba,” “Maranatha,” etc. The Spirit will guide you.

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  2. “You’re in no position to understand him.” What a good retort to our own silly and intrusive thoughts. Thank you for sharing !


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