Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pray Well

Please also read these articles:
Which prayer does God hear?
Controlling Wandering Thoughts During Prayer
Thoughts will wander when one is reading spiritual works and during prayer. What should one do? No one is free from this. There is no sin in it, only vexation. Having wandering thoughts becomes a sin when one willingly allows flightiness of mind. But if thoughts scatter involuntarily, what fault can there be? There is fault, though, when one notices thoughts wandering and, taking no action, one wanders along with them. When we catch our thoughts wandering off, we must bring them back to their proper place at once.

To be free from the tendency to have wandering thoughts during prayer, one must concentrate and pray with warmth. Before prayer, one should prepare for such an effort by making prostrations and by a moment of reflection. Accustom yourself to pray your own prayers. For instance: it is the essence of evening prayer to thank God for the day and everything that happened, both pleasant and unpleasant; to ask forgiveness for all wrongs committed, promising to improve during the next day; and to pray that God preserve you during sleep. Express all this to God from your mind and from your whole heart.

The essence of morning prayer is to thank God for sleep, rest and regained strength and to pray that He will help us do everything to His glory. Express this to Him with your mind and with your whole heart. Along with such prayers in the morning and evening, present your greatest needs to the Lord, especially spiritual needs. Besides spiritual needs, present your worldly cares, saying to Him as would a child: "See, O Lord, my sickness and weakness! Help and heal!" All this and the like can be spoken before God in your own words, without the use of a prayer book. Try this and, if it works, you may leave the prayer book altogether; but if not, you must pray with the prayer book, otherwise you might end up with no prayer at all.

Fighting Spiritual Coldness
The enemy of our fundamental striving for prayer, and, therefore, our chief enemy, is a [spiritual] cooling. Oh, what a bitter and wretched state it is! But realize that not all decrease in the heat of fervor is pernicious chill. Some comes from weakness, other from disease of the body. Neither is bad; both will pass.

Disastrous cooling down is caused by falling away from God's will, through our own willful passion for anything ungodly. Willful passion runs counter to our conscience, which tries to enlighten and to keep us from ungodly desires. Willful passion kills the spirit and cuts off spiritual life. This you must fear most of all—as fire, as death itself. Willful passion is caused by a loss of the fear of God and by inattention to oneself. These, then, you must watch for in order to avoid such a terrible evil.
As for those times when a cooling down comes involuntarily, due to sickness or weakness of body, one law applies: Endure, without changing your appointed rule, even if it is completely without savor. For those who endure patiently, cold feelings pass, and the usual warm and heartfelt fervor quickly returns. Please, hold it in your mind and make it a rule, never to let cooling arbitrarily steal away your fervor. In case of unavoidable cooling, make it another rule to drag and to keep dragging through your established prayer rule, with the assurance that this dry performance of deeds will soon bring back life and warmth to your prayer.

The Benefits of Brief Prayers
Zealous Christians have a certain technique that they apply to secure the continual remembrance of God more firmly. It is the constant repetition of a short prayer, ordinarily either, "Lord, have mercy," or "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." If you haven't heard this, then listen now. If you have never done this, begin now. 


Time Will Bring a Constant Remembrance of God
Be encouraged! Take up prayer more readily and continue without interruptions—and you will soon achieve your desired goal. Soon a reverent attention to the One God will be established, and with it, inner peace. I say soon, not now, or in a day or two. Months may be required, sometimes, even years. Ask the Lord and He will help.


Establish a Prayer Rule
Because of our weakness, it is proper to have a prayer rule. For one thing, it controls excessive zeal. The great men of prayer had a prayer rule and kept to it. Every time, they began prayer with the established prayers, and then, if self-initiated prayer came, they turned to it from reciting prayers. If they needed a prayer rule, then we need one even more! Without formal prayers, we would not know how to pray correctly at all. Without them, we would be completely without prayer. Nevertheless, we should not collect too many prayers. A few prayers, correctly read, are better than many prayers raced through. And, of course, it is hard to keep from rushing when, in our eagerness to pray, we have gathered more prayers than we can handle.

Nurturing the Desire for God
Do you wish to enter Paradise more quickly? This is what you must do: When you pray, do not complete your prayer before arousing in your heart some feeling toward God—reverence, loyalty, thanksgiving, exaltation, humility, contrition, or assurance and hope in God. 


Avoiding Carelessness and Presumption in Prayer
Has your prayer vanished? It seems to have started off quite well, and you had already experienced its grace-filled actions in your heart. I will tell you where it has gone. Having prayed once or twice with warmth and in earnest, and having experienced such immediate help through prayer, you thought your prayer was forever established, and that there was no need to maintain it. You thought it would flow by itself. Expecting prayer to continue on its own, you began to rush and carelessly left your thoughts to wander unchecked. From this, your attention scattered, thought went in all directions, and your prayer was no longer true. Once, twice in such a careless manner, and prayer disappeared. Begin anew to establish prayer and plead with the Lord to help you. 


Do Not be Hasty in Prayer
Do you negligently rushed to complete your prayer rule, just to get by? Make it a rule, from now on, never to pray negligently or hastily. Nothing is more offensive to God than this. It is better to leave out part of your prayer rule and to complete the remainder reverently and with fear of God, than to do the whole prayer rule, and do it negligently. It is even better to read but one prayer, or fall on your knees and pray in your own words, than to pray negligently. If you pray carelessly, there will be no fruit. Give yourself a thorough reprimand for such carelessness. Let this be clear to you: No one who prays earnestly and with attention ends prayer without feeling the effect of prayer - whether in an increased resolution to avoid sin, or to mortify one's senses, or in an increase in the fear of God or in His love. O, of what a blessing we deprive ourselves by allowing negligence and haste in prayer!



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