Prayer with Pain

Venerable John Calabytes "the Hut-Dweller"

Venerable John Calabytes "the Hut-Dweller"

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

--Geronda (Elder), how do you pray about a certain matter?

--The main thing is to feel compassion. If one is not compassionate, he may sit for hours with the komboschoini (Prayer-rope), and his prayer will have no result whatsoever. If there is pain in his heart about what he is praying for, even with a single sigh he will have prayed from the heart. Many, who when asked to pray have no time, will sigh for the other's problem and that in itself is a prayer. I'm not saying prayer needn't be done, if there is no time, a sigh for the pain of another is a prayer from the heart; it equals hours of prayer. You read, for example, a letter, you realize there is a problem, you sigh over it and then you pray. This is very important. Before you even pick up the telephone receiver, even before you call, God hears you! And how the other person learns of this! You should see how those possessed by demons realize when I am praying for them, and cry out wherever they may be.

Real prayer begins from pain; it is not a pleasant experience, a "nirvana". What kind of pain is it? One is troubled in the good sense of the term. He feels pain, he groans, he suffers when praying for anything whatsoever. Do you know what it means to suffer? Yes, he suffers, because he is participating in everyone's pain or in the pain of one particular person. This participation, this pain, is rewarded by God with Divine exultation. Of course, he doesn't ask for this exultation, but it comes as a consequence, because he participates in the pain of others.

--How will he begin?

--Let's say he learns of an accident and sighs, and, at that moment, God gives him divine consolation for his compassionate sigh. He sees someone who is hurting, and immediately feels compassion, and is thus consoled by God with divine consolation; he doesn't remain with that initial bitterness over the accident. The other person is helped through his prayer. Or he may think to himself, "God has given us so many blessings; what have I done for God?" I was impressed by what one soul said to me, "The Angels cover their faces when the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist is being celebrated, while we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ. What have I done for Christ?" He suffers in a good sense.

--Geronda (Elder), how does one understand that someone has been helped by his prayer?

--He realizes it from the divine consolation which he feels inside after praying from the heart in pain. But first, you must make the other person's pain your own and then pray from the heart. Love is a divine attribute and informs the other person. Even in hospitals, when the doctors and nurses feel genuine compassion for their patients, this is the most effective medicine of all the medications given to them. The patients feel they are being cared for with love and have a sense of certainty, security, and consolation. You don't need to say much to someone who is suffering or try to instruct him. He understands that you feel his pain and care about him, and he is helped by this. Feeling his pain is everything. If we feel compassion for others, we forget ourselves and our problems.


--Geronda (Elder), when I feel pain for others, I become anxious and cannot pray.

--This anxiety shows that there is a human element in you. The more I am pained by people's sufferings, the more I pray and rejoice spiritually at telling Christ everything and having Him take care of it. And I notice that as time passes and physical courage diminishes, spiritual courage increases because love, sacrifice, and compassion for others for others provide great spiritual strength. And I must admit that this evening during your vigil, I wasn't really up to it, but I received renewed strength from the others. And I was able to stand through the night until the Divine Liturgy by seeing all the people. Even later, standing in the church, I didn't feel tired because I felt compassion for those people and this strengthened me. You, too, must pray and rejoice, because Christ will take care of everything...

"...How could I possibly get through all the things that I hear? Yes, I feel the pain, but I also think of the divine reward in those who are suffering. We are in God's hands. Since there is divine justice, divine reward, nothing is lost. The more one is tormented, the more he will be rewarded. Although God sees so much suffering upon the earth, even things which we cannot imagine, He never falters. "You have suffered more?" He asks, "I will provide you with more in the other life", and He rejoices. Otherwise, how could He endure so much injustice, so much evil that exists? But He keeps in mind the reward of those who suffer and, in a manner of speaking, endures that great pain. We don't see the glory to be received by the other person and so we feel compassion for him, and for this God rewards us with divine consolation.

--Geronda (Elder), won't this worry exhaust us?

-- No. Someone who faces every problem spiritually is not exhausted. At first, he is grieved, embittered, when he hears that someone is suffering, but then divine consolation comes as a reward and the human organism is not destroyed. While bitterness from worldly worry brings gastro-intestinal illnesses, and so on, spiritual compassion does not harm our organism because it has the divine balsam.



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.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


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

+Father George