Patristic Texts on Prayer

Apostle Herodion of the Seventy

Apostle Herodion of the Seventy

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

PATRISTIC TEXTS ON PRAYER

"But you, beloved building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (St. Jude 10:20).

SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
(Second Homily On Prayer)

"Prayer is the beginning of every good things, and the mediator of salvation and eternal life...

The greatest thing we have to say about prayer is that every praying person converses with God Himself, and this to the extent that, being human, one can speak with God...One cannot adequately express in words this honor. For this honor exceeds even the magnificence of the Angels themselves...At the time of prayer we are forgetful of our human nature, considering ourselves to be in the midst of Angels and carrying out the same worship as they. For all the other things are very different and separated--I mean between us and the Angels--but the work of prayer is common to both angels and humans.

For what more saintly things can happen to those who converse with God? What more righteous? What more modest and becoming? What more wise? Prayer and supplication fills them with so much wisdom, so much virtue, and understanding, and goodness, and prudence and gracious manners!

It is impossible for man to be able to carry on a divine conversation without the activity of the Holy Spirit, and that is why this activity must be present and associated with the sacred struggle (of prayer). Thus, we are enabled to bend the knees, to petition and to pray...Therefore, when you are aware that not only are you speaking with God but are also receiving the energy of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the soul, you will not allow the devil any entry whatsoever into your soul, when you begin to pray."

SAINT NEILOS THE ASCETIC
(153 Chapters On Prayer. The Philokalia, vol. A,p, 177 f.)

"Prayer is the conversation of the mind with God.

Moses, who attempted to approach the burning bush on earth, was prevented until he had removed the sandals from his feet; how do you expect to see and to become conversant with the One Who is above every perception and every thought, if you do not remove from yourself every passionate thought?

First of all pray for the reception of tears; for through contrition and grief the wildness which co-exists in your soul may be softened, and, having confessed to the Lord your transgression, you may receive forgiveness from Him.

Your Lord rejoices greatly when you pray with tears...

When the demons see you truly willing to pray ardently, they will present you with certain thoughts about things that are presumably important and then, after a short while, will remove them from your memory. But the mind, moved to pursue these thoughts and unable to find them, becomes greatly despondent and saddened. When at such a time you stand in prayer, they will remind you of these thoughts again so that the mind may be again distracted by them and thus bring about the loss of fruitful prayer.

During the time of prayer, struggle to make your mind deaf and dumb, and then you will be able to pray."

SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS (OF THE LADDER) - Homily 28
(On Sacred and Blessed Prayer, the Mother of Virtues)

"The quality and the grace of prayer which is done, as it should, with fervent love and desire for God, has so much great power, that it unites human beings with their Creator and raises their mind to be inseparably bonded with Him. The energy of such prayer, moreover, can hold the world together and keep it from being annihilated by the many sins done each day.

This prayer is remission and forgiveness of sins; a bridge that separates and frees man from temptations and dangers and transports him to freedom and rest; it is a wall of separation which obstructs the grief of the passions both of men and of demons, and does not permit them (the demons) to enter into us and to torment us; it is a celestial activity that nourishes all the Angels and the Saints; it is a the endless joy and delight of the righteous; it is the virtue which must never cease; it is a source from which spring all good things; it is a mediator for all the gifts; an invisible progress in the heart; a table of noble souls that is unfailing in providing spiritual food; a perpetual illumination of the mind; a heavenly Light; an axe that cuts off and dispels despondency; it is the proof of the hope the soul has in God and for this reason it prays; it is the antidote to and the release from sorrow; it is the wealth of the monastics who practice it with contrition; it is the great reduction and disappearance of anger; it is the mirror which reflects the degree of the soul in love with God; the torch of the inner spiritual condition of man; it is a door through which the Angelic Light enters into the praying persons and reveals to them the hidden mysteries of God; it is the messenger of the eternal honor and of the gifts of the beloved servants of God. And to put it even more briefly, prayer creates such a great activity in the soul that it is captivated to rejoice with all of its heart and to be aware that it is standing before the tribunal and the Throne of God; and it is examined for its sins, as if it were that fearful hour of the Great Judgment, so the soul is judged and condemned, standing also in fear and trembling, entreating and grieving and seeking correction, in order that in the future judgment it may be found free from the wrath of God and the condemnation of its sins.

Let us approach willingly the most sacred prayer, the queen of the virtues, speaking to us with an exalted voice and saying: Come to me, all who have become weary of the carnal and the worldly and the demonic warfare, and I will redeem you from all of these and give you rest (cf. St. Matthew 11:18)."

SAINT ISAAC THE SYRIAN - ON PRAYER
(The Ascetical Homilies, ed. Holy Transfiguration Monastery)

"When man becomes humble, he is at once encircled by the mercy of God, and it is then that the heart becomes aware of Divine intervention, and discovers a certain power of faith and reassurance moving within itself. Again, when man becomes aware of this Divine help and knows that it is within him and empowers him, the heart is then directly filled with joy and faith. It is from this that man understands prayer to be a refuge of assistance, a source of salvation and a treasury of reassurance and conviction, a haven where man finds rescue from the temptations, a light to those in darkness, a staff of support for the infirm, a shelter at the time of temptations, a medicinal help at the height of illness, a shield of protection during unseen warfare, an arrow aimed at demons, and, in general it may be said, that all good things find their way into the heart of man of man through prayer, while his heart rejoices and delights in the assurance it has in God, and no longer remains in its former blindness and simple speech of the tongue. When man comes to understand all of these things rightly, he then acquires the gift of prayer in his soul and considers it to be a such great treasure that, out of much joy and gladness, his prayer is transformed into shouts of thanksgiving…

Now, this type of prayer is acquired through the knowledge of God (and is sent by God). Man no longer prays with effort and ascetic labors, as is the case with the other type of prayer lacking this grace, but with joy and amazement in his heart, moved by the abundant knowledge of God and astonished by His overwhelming grace, the praying believer continually raises his voice in praise and glorification and thanksgiving to God..."

SAINT SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN
(On the Three Methods of Attention and Prayer. Philokalia, vol, 5, 81 f, ed, Astir - Papademetriou)

"There are three methods of attention and prayer, by which the soul may rise up and make progress in prayer, or may fall and be lost.

First of all attention must be as inseparable from prayer as the body is inseparable from the soul, and one cannot stand without the other. Attention must go on ahead to scout out the enemies, and as an avant-guard to do battle with sin and to oppose the evil thoughts that attempt to enter into the soul. After attention has done its preparatory work, then prayer can follow to annihilate and strike a death blow directly to all those evil imaginings which attention had encountered earlier...

The characteristics of the first method of attention and prayer are these: One stands in prayer and raises to heaven his arms, his eyes and his mind and imagines with his mind the divine thoughts and the good things of heaven and the orders of the Holy Angels and the dwelling places of the Saints and, to put it briefly, all of the things learned from Sacred Scripture and gathered in the mind to be considered at the time of prayer and to thus motivate his soul with these in an effort to perhaps cultivate a divine desire and love. Sometimes one may also shed tears and weep. Through this method, however, one may gradually develop a sense of pride in his heart, without even realizing it, because what he is doing seems to be the result of Divine grace consoling him. Thus, he prays to God to make him worthy to always be active in such work. But this is a sign of deception; for the good is not really good, if it is not accomplished well and as it should be.

The second method of attention and prayer is the following: One gathers the mind within the self, removing it from all sensory things, to protect all of its senses and to gather all of its thoughts from wandering over the vain things of this world. Sometimes one will examine his thoughts and sometimes will pay attention to the words of his prayer. Other times he will need to recall his thoughts which were captivated by the devil and were distracted by evil and vain things...

The third method of attention and prayer is truly a marvelous thing but rather difficult to explain. For those who are not familiar with this method, it is not only difficult to explain it to them, they also find it virtually incredible to believe, and imagine that there is no such thing, probably because in these times of ours this method is not found to be used by many. It seems to me that this blessing has deserted us together with obedience. It is obedience to one's spiritual father which makes a person free from many cares because he has placed them on the shoulders of his spiritual father, and is thus released from the attachments of this world. He devotes himself totally in becoming a zealous and tireless adherent of this third method of attention and prayer, providing, of course, that one is indeed blessed with a true spiritual father to guide him without error…moreover, this person does not seek to do his own will or to live a life on his own, but devotes his entire life to God and to his spiritual father…"

SAINT GREGORY OF SINAI
(Various Texts On Prayer, Philokalia, vol. 4m 31f, vol, 5, p. 90f., ed. Astir - Papademetriou)

"Prayer among beginners is experienced as a joyous warmth or fire rising up out of the heart, but for those who have progressed toward perfection it is more like a sweet-scented Light that is active within the heart. Prayer may also be said to be a gospel message of the Apostles, and an activity of faith, or rather a direct expression of faith and a substance of things hoped for. Prayer is also activated love, an angelic activity, a work, a power and a delight of the bodiless angels. Moreover, we can say that prayer is a gospel of God, an enlightenment of the heart, a hope of salvation, a sign of purification, a symbol of sanctity, a knowledge of God, a manifestation of baptism, an ablution of cleansing, an engagement of the Holy Spirit, the joy of Jesus, a delight of the soul, God's mercy, a sign of reconciliation, a seal of Christ, a ray of the intelligible sun, a bright dawn of hearts, an affirmation of Christianity, a declaration of God's reconciliation, a grace of God, a wisdom of God, or rather the beginning of self-wisdom, a manifestation of God, an activity of monastics, a way of life for those who live in sacred quietude, the cause of silence, evidence of an angelic way of life. But why say anything more? Prayer is God activating all things in all men, for there is one single energy in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that activates all things through Jesus Christ."(Source: A Prayer Book, An Anthology of Orthodox Prayers by Father Peter A. Chamberas)

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Please note: What other Christian confessions have such vast spiritual treasure? All of you must labor hard and with sincere faith to learn as much as possible about our Orthodox Christian Faith and Holy Tradition. Read and Study the sacred writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church. They are the only true spiritual guides and no one else.

For sixteen long years of priestly diakonia, I have attempted to impart upon you, the knowledge of our Faith, i.e., Adult Catechism, sermons, bulletins, especially through the daily divine services and sacraments of the Church, and in recent years through daily emails. If you have paid attention, and if you have shown some interest, you should have been enriched and enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit. You should have a very strong and sound understanding of our Holy Church, and therefore, become a better and a more genuine Christian.

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George