Prayer


“What can I do for God? Nothing. In fact, I can’t even seek Him; I can’t even repent. But what I can do is to struggle. This means that I can commit myself to a life of asceticism, to the practice of spiritual exercises. And I will undertake such a commitment in a manner appropriate to my way of life, that is, depending on my situation, character, physical strength, psychological disposition, my history, my heredity, in terms of my gifts and so on. Whatever role these factors play, there will be a commitment to asceticism.

Earlier we said that pain begins with the experience of pleasure. Of course, we wanted only the pleasure, not the pain. But now I must embrace pain in order to regain true pleasure. Why? Because we were created for pleasure. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of “delights”, for this is what the word “Eden” means.

… asceticism is a way in which I as a human being, set about attracting the attention of God. … Does God have need of such activity? I will say only this: it is something I can do, and God wants me to do what I can. …It’s my preparation in order to seek, want, actively desire, love and finally, receive God. What we’re attending to now are the preparations, just as we would sweep the house in preparation for a visit by our spiritual father. Thus I give expression to my inner disposition by enduring the coldness, and filth that is within me, and accepting my nakedness and acknowledging it before God. Asceticism is the way I cry out to Him.”

– Elder Aimilianos, The Way of the Spirit p. 18-19

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“Prayer consisting of words alone does not help if the heart does not participate in prayer. God hears only a fervent prayer. Abba Zoilus of Thebaid was once returning from Mt. Sinai and met a monk who complained to him, that they are suffering much from drought in the monastery. Zoilus said to him: ‘Why don’t you pray and implore God?’ The monk replied: ‘We have prayed and have implored, but there is no rain.’ To this, Zoilus replied: ‘It is evident that you are not praying fervently. Do you want to be convinced that it is so?’ Having said this, the elder raised his hands to heaven and prayed. Abundant rain fell to the earth. Seeing this, the astonished monk fell to the ground and bowed before the elder, but the elder, fearing the glory of men, quickly fled. The Lord Himself said: ‘Ask and it will be given you’ (St. Luke 11:9). In vain are mouths full of prayer if the heart is empty. God does not stand and listen to the mouth but to the heart. Let the heart be filled with prayer even though the mouth might be silent. God will hear and will receive the prayer. For God only listens to a fervent prayer.”

– St. Nicholai of Zhicha

“How are you to know if you are living according to the will of God?

Here is a sign: if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God’s will, although it may seem to you that you live according to his will. He who lives according to God’s will has no material cares. If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God; and if he does not receive it, he remains as unworried as if he had got what he wanted.”

– St. Silouan the Athonite 

“Lack of self-control is actually an evil both ancient and modern, though it did not precede its antidote, fasting. By means of our forefathers’ self-indulgence in paradise and their contempt for the fast already in existence there, death entered the world. Sin reigned and brought in the condemnation of our nature from Adam until Christ.

The flood covered the whole earth because of the self-indulgence of Adam’s descendants in this world of ours and their disdain for the chastity which came before. In those days God said to Noah, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in these men, for they are flesh’ (cf. Gen. 6:3 LXX). The deeds of those who are flesh are none other than unlimited eating, drunkenness, sensual pleasure and the evils that spring from them. Because of the abominable depravity and self-indulgence among the men of Sodom, fire fell on them from heaven (Gen. 19:24). ‘Behold’, says the prophet Ezekiel, ‘this was the iniquity of the men of Sodom, in fulness of bread they committed abomination’ (cf. Ezek. 16:49-50). By means of this abomination, ignoring human nature they fell into unnatural unions. What deprived Esau, Isaac’s firstborn, of his birthright and his father’s blessing? Of course it was lasciviousness and an unreasonable demand for food (Gen. 25:25-34; 26:34-35, Heb. 12:16). Why were Eli’s sons condemned to death, and why did he meet a violent death at the news of the death of his children, whom he had not disciplined with proper care? Surely it was because they took the meat from the cauldrons before the time and used it (1 Sam. 2:12-17; 4:11, 17-18). Also, the whole Hebrew nation, while Moses was fasting on the mountain for their sake, were indulging themselves to their own detriment. They ate and drank and rose up to play, as the Scripture says (Exod. 32:6), and their sport was worshipping an idol, for it was then that the incidents surrounding the fashioning of the calf took place among them.

Sensual pleasure causes ungodliness as well as sin, but fasting and self-control result in the fear of God as well as virtue. Fasting must be accompanied by self-control. Why? Because eating our fill, even of humble foods, is a hindrance to the purifying mourning, godly sorrow and contrition in our souls, which bring about unswerving repentance leading to salvation. For without a contrite heart we cannot really lay hold of repentance. It is the restriction of self-indulgence, sleep and the senses according to God’s will that crushes our hearts and makes us mourn for our sins.”

– St. Gregory Palamas

“Carelessness and laziness over salvation is a clear sign that the life of the spirit has not yet begun, and everything has to be started over again. By the way, do not despair in this case either. Life is still given to us so that we would come to our senses and repent. This has to be done. There is still the favorable time of the fast left. Use it, and let us take care to complete the course of our treatment in preparing ourselves for Communion as is meet! Then, having made peace with the Lord in the Sacrament of repentance and having received Him in the Most Pure Mysteries, we will begin the work of life, which ultimately leads to light and perfection of spiritual good things that witness that the Lord is in us and we are in Him. Amen.”

– St. Theophan the Recluse

Source

This may not be Hollywood quality cinematography and special effects, but the message is very appropriate for Great Lent (or indeed any season of the year). It is produced by the Monastery of St. Elizabeth, Minsk.

St. Peter of Damascus

“Thus we should all give thanks to Him, as it is said: ‘In everything give thanks’ (I Thessalonians 5:18). Closely linked to this phrase is another of St. Paul’s injunctions: ‘Pray without ceasing’ (I Thessalonians 5:17), that is, be mindful of God at all times, in all places, and in every circumstance. For no matter what you do, you should keep in mind the Creator of all things. When you see the light, do not forget Him who gave it to you; when you see the sky, the earth, the sea and all that is in them, marvel at these things and glorify their Creator; when you put on clothing, acknowledge whose gift it is and praise Him who in His providence has given you life. In short, if everything you do becomes for you an occasion for glorifying God, you will be praying unceasingly. And in this way your soul will always rejoice, as St. Paul commends (I Thessalonians 5:16). For, as St. Dorotheos explains, remembrance of God rejoices the soul; and he adduces David as witness: ‘I remembered God, and rejoiced’ (Psalms 77:3).”

– St. Peter of Damascus

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