Orthodox Thought for the Day


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On prayer and how to pray

One of my all-time favorite spiritual books is Wounded by Love, the Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios.  The content of this book, I’ve found, is a balm for the soul.  Most Orthodox Christian bookstores carry it; if you are looking for a copy and cannot find it, write to me and I’ll help you source one, if desired.  Here is an excerpt, starting on page 116, where you can read further if you have a copy at home:

 We shouldn’t blackmail God with our prayers.  We shouldn’t ask God to release us from something, from an illness, for example, or to solve our problems, but we should ask for strength and support from Him to bear what we have to bear.  Just as He knocks discretely at the door of our soul, so we should ask discretely for what we desire and if the Lord does not respond, we should cease to ask.  When God does not give us something that we ask for insistently, then He has His reasons.  God, too, has His ‘secrets.’  Since we believe in His good providence, since we believe that He knows everything about our lives and that He always desires what is good, why should we not trust Him?  Let us pray naturally and gently, without forcing ourself and without passion.  We know that past, present, and future are all known, open and laid bare before God.  As St. Paul says, Before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to His eyes.  We should not insist; such persistence does harm instead of good.  We shouldn’t continue relentlessly in order to acquire what we want; rather we should leave things to the will of God.  Because the more we pursue something, the more it runs away from us.  So what is required is patience, faith and composure.  And if we forget it, the Lord never forgets; and if it is for our good, He will give us what we require when we require it.

In our prayer we should ask only for the salvation of our soul.  Didn’t the Lord say, Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you?  Easily, without the slightest difficulty, Christ can give us what we want.  And remember the secret.  The secret is not to think about asking for the specific thing at all.  The secret is to ask for your union with Christ with utter selflessness, without saying, ‘give me this,’ or ‘give me that.’  It suffices to say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”  God has no need to be informed by us about our various needs.  He knows them all incomparably better than we do and He gives us His love.  What is important is for us to respond to this love with prayer and with the keeping of His commandments.  We should ask for the will of God to be done.  That is what is in our best interest and the safest thing for us and for those for whom we pray.  Christ will give us everything abundantly.  When there is even a trace of egotism, nothing happens.

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