In last week’s post, we saw that the English mystic Walter Hilton likened prayer to fire. He continues this analogy in a letter to a layperson. He writes a beautiful description of what he calls the “mixed life:” a life marked by a rhythm of labor and prayer.

[T]he will and desire you have toward God is like a little coal of fire in your soul. It gives you a certain amount of spiritual heat and even light, but it is quite little, and threatens to grow cold in idleness and want of fuel. At that point it is good that you should put against it some sticks of wood—good labors of the active life. And if it seems for a time that these duties shroud or overshadow the coal of your desire, that it does not burn as cleanly and fervently as you would want, then do not be fearful, but rather be patient awhile.


Then blow at the fire—after doing your proper duties and service, go alone to your prayer and meditation, and lift up your heart to God, praying him of his goodness that he will accept the work that you have done as unto his pleasure.

I’m encouraged by Hilton’s conviction that the active life is a way to serve God.


Walter Hilton (c. 1340 – 1396) was an Augustinian canon and a mystic. He was the first person to write a treatise on mysticism in the English language.