Oración , Preghiera , Priére , Prayer , Gebet , Oratio, Oração de Jesus

2666. Mas o nome que tudo encerra é o que o Filho de Deus recebe na sua encarnação: JESUS. O nome divino é indizível para lábios humanos mas, ao assumir a nossa humanidade, o Verbo de Deus comunica-no-lo e nós podemos invocá-lo: «Jesus», « YHWH salva» . O nome de Jesus contém tudo: Deus e o homem e toda a economia da criação e da salvação. Rezar «Jesus» é invocá-Lo, chamá-Lo a nós. O seu nome é o único que contém a presença que significa. Jesus é o Ressuscitado, e todo aquele que invocar o seu nome, acolhe o Filho de Deus que o amou e por ele Se entregou.
2667. Esta invocação de fé tão simples foi desenvolvida na tradição da oração sob as mais variadas formas, tanto no Oriente como no Ocidente. A formulação mais habitual, transmitida pelos espirituais do Sinai, da Síria e de Athos, é a invocação: «Jesus, Cristo, Filho de Deus, Senhor, tende piedade de nós, pecadores!». Ela conjuga o hino cristológico de Fl 2, 6-11 com a invocação do publicano e dos mendigos da luz (14). Por ela, o coração sintoniza com a miséria dos homens e com a misericórdia do seu Salvador.
2668. A invocação do santo Nome de Jesus é o caminho mais simples da oração contínua. Muitas vezes repetida por um coração humildemente atento, não se dispersa num «mar de palavras», mas «guarda a Palavra e produz fruto pela constância». E é possível «em todo o tempo», porque não constitui uma ocupação a par de outra, mas é a ocupação única, a de amar a Deus, que anima e transfigura toda a acção em Cristo Jesus.

segunda-feira, 28 de julho de 2014

Athonite Elders' Precepts : Every time pray as if for the first time. St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov): When the Savior of the World commended the publican’s prayer. Prayer Within The Heart. Sayings of the Ascetics about the Prayer . Jesus Prayer - Prayer of the Heart .

Athonite Elders' Precepts –
(Every time pray as if for the first time...)

Translated from Russian

Athonite Elders' Precepts –
Every time pray as if for the first time...

1. While living on earth, live as if in heaven – without any attachments and in constant prayer. -
2. Each and every time pray as if for the first time, or else pray as if for the last time.
3. Contemplating God is not always possible, but you can always supplicate Him.
4. It is good to supplicate God for forgiveness of your sins; then thoughts of condemnation go away as alien to this doing.
5. All the spiritual struggle is for humility and patience [sake], and when humility and patience do come, then heed and prayer come, as well.
6. Pernicious to seclusion is to judge about people or listen in to gossip about them – the mind loses peace and prayer for long time.
7. If you think about the world – you shall not avoid bitterness, and if you think about God – [you shall not avoid] sweetness.
8. For the smart one bowing is hell, and for the good one – Paradise.
9. You want to be smart? – Study books. You want to be good? – Pray.
10. Pondering and reflection are for the life in body, while faith and prayer are for life in God.
11. Self-pity during fasting means to pity your evil will and bad habits that lead a merciless war against us and hinder prayer.
12. The more languishing and whining our ill will for us going against it, the more the soul rejoices and cleanses, and the more it grows up in living fervent prayer.
13. Utter just a single prayer in [such] a way as if you have never prayed before it or after it, ennclosing your whole self in it. Only in this way prayers open up the heart.
14. Non-absent-minded prayer is true prayer, which – little by little – strengthens up in the heart and purifies it; absent-minded prayer – like peelings exactly – is carried away by the wind of thoughts [intentions].
15. No matter how much time you may be engaged in prayer, heedful prayer is the best.
16. Pray like this: I'll say at least one prayer but with full heeding and repentance , then – another and another. Thus comes the skill to pray in full heed.
17. When the heart prays in full heeding, it is quick to warm up.
18. Constantly resist the evil will with prayer, although this is difficult, but it attracts grace to the soul; and never comply with the dictates of evil will in thoughts and actions, so as not to become their prisoner in eternity.
19. If we get used to comply with all our bad thoughts and desires, especially the seemingly trifle ones, then we'll become slaves of evil at first in trifles, and then – in all our life.
20. Never dream – for dreams are but a step away from slavery to sin.
21. Unless the heart refuses to be a slave to bad habits, incessant prayer shall never take root in it.
22. If one treats all people with prayerful compassion and mercy, then hostility, envy and hatred go away, and prayer is strengthened and love comes to men.
23. Humility and love for people come into the heart, when it learns to pray for them and endure all inconveniences and sufferings that they cause.
24. There is freedom of heart and there is liberty of heart. The former is from the Holy Spirit and [from] prayers, the latter is from Satan and evil thoughts and desires.
25. The more frequent the wind shakes a tree, the deeper its roots grow into earth; the more sorrows a heart experiences, the stronger it keeps to God and [to] prayer.
26. The heart finds God when between one prayer and another not [even] one thought intrudes into it.
27. No communication and talks could [ever] give what seclusion and prayer do.
28. Ranting and absent-mindedness render the mind excited, irritable and spiteful; while silence and prayer – [make it] light[-weight], pure, and joyful.
29. If love and trust in your self grow, then growing also is hostility and hatred towards people; if hatred and mistrust in self grow, then love for people grows, and prayer and charity become its manifestation.
30. Prayerful power of the mind is acquired in silence, while in ranting it is lost in vain [aimlessly].
31. Spiritual joy shall come only when you free yourself completely of sin and are vouchsafed pure prayer.
32. Prior to the coming of pure prayer what joy can there be? Only weeping, mourning, and repentance.
33. Duration of spiritual warfare, absebt-mindedness and drowsiness in prayer depend on the degree of non-humbleness, stubbornness, and impenitence of the soul.
34. To let your very heart grow in prayer is the first requirement of the soul.
35. If you yourself suffer – you shall abide with prayer and with Christ, and if you cause suffering to others – you shall remain with despair and with the devil.
36. There are two states in spiritual life and man is free to choose any of the two: either in earthly "paradise" with the body and in hell with the soul and without prayer; or in earthly hell with the body, but with the soul in Heavens and with unceasing prayer.
37. The greatest sorrow and hardest work [of all] is to cut thoughts off, and this is indeed [in itself] trampling on yourself in prayer.
38. Prayer is labor, but creative labor, and only such prayer satiates the soul with grace.
39. This is why the monk has been given a spiritual sword – in order to cut apiece in the heart all images of the world that pop up in prayer, no matter how dear and beloved those may be.
40. A mind depraved by desires and attractions is a source of death, but a mind transformed by prayer and grace is the source of Immortality and Life Eternal.
41. There is no non-being, but what there is one needs to get to know with the help of prayer and the grace of Christ.
42. He who fights with thoughts – can be re-enslaved by them, and he who already abides beyond thoughts in the grace of Christ is invincible.
43. There may be Freedom only in Holiness, devoid of any sin, and therefore Freedom is perfect purity and Holiness, which are both acquired by prayer.
44. Give not free rein to your mind, abide in prayer – and you shall acquire humility and shall learn to obey the will of God.
45. It's scary to start living tomorrow! Begin to live anew today – in prayer and penance.
46. Immediately one's own will is put an end to – right away there open up the will of God and constant prayer.
47. He who receives griefs and illnesses with joy and thanks God for them in prayer – stands above the one doing good deeds.
48. If one begins and ends each day with prayer, then living on earth would not be that shameful.
49. Abiding in prayer and heeding to oneself strengthens the power of the soul, while abiding in absent-mindedness and thoughts-in-vain makes the soul licentious and will-less.
50. Praying means opening up the inner peace of the soul, which is attained as eternal life in God's life-giving silence.

51. A prayer of repentance that leads to humility brings in God's help and growth in grace and wisdom.
52. When on the spiritual path a man takes a U-turn, then one's soul begins to petrify, prayer goes away and one gets worse than it was.
53. Which is better – to plunge people into the mundane vanity of this world , or to help them climb unto Heavens through prayer?
54. If you grumble not upon the arrival of sorrows and diseases, but take a firm hold onto prayer, then you'll be comforted upon the arrival of grace and shall raise up thanks to God.
55. If you get ready to endure afflictions – no matter how long they may last – do not be dejected, keep [hold] onto prayer and through praying these sorrows shall flash past faster than you [hold] planned to endure them.
56. If your life is marked by full uncertainty and insecurity – it means you have not yet learned to make use of prayer, for prayer implants you living into God.
57. A lot of fun debilitates the soul; a lot of grieving enfeebles the heart; a lot of excitement upsets the mind and confusion arises in the spiritual life.
58. It is best to abide in prayer, and then the soul and the heart strengthen up, the mind calms down, while things come into order and God begins living in the heart.
59. If you ponder about your deeds – the mind is distracted and there will be no success, but if you pray for your deeds – the mind is strengthened and the help of God descends unto your deeds.
60. The best of all is to pray for Salvation of your soul and God shall append all the rest to it.
61. Don't be greedy for deeds and vanity, rather be greedy for prayer and Salvation of the soul.
62. He who grows strong in worldly vain activities grows weak for prayers.
63. A monk without prayer is like unsalted salt.
64. What is the monk's strength in? – In that that he unflinchingly follows the [path of] prayer.
65. A monk – exhausted by fasting and abstinence – enjoys the power of mind and purity of heart in which prayer has found its abode.
66. A monk enjoying abundant food and vain activities takes no notice that he has been robbed and burgled, for he lacks the main thing – prayer.
67. Shall not the joy of that one who only builds externally — buildings and walls – soon turn into sorrow and tears when the internal has not been built – the unceasing prayer?
68. Complaints for a monk – this is that same grumbling, for he who knows that his true possession [aqnd fortune] is in prayer has no need of complaints and grumbling.
69. The one who seeks prayer – finds, along with the prayer, a cell and a forest; and the one who seeks a cell and a forest – hoping to find in them prayer – finds neither the one nor the other.
70. Were you to help the world on your own efforts, then you'll lose both peace and health; if you help the world through prayer – you will yourself be saved and you will help others be saved.
71. While you keep silent – you have prayer; it takes just for you to begin speaking – [and] you have words only.
72. While you pray – God lives within you; it takes just for you to [come to] think about anything else – and there will remain in you only your thoughts.
73. Some people pray to God only when they are in trouble , while others - like also to thank Him for deliverance from trouble.
74. If you learn to not only ask God for help, but also to thank Him for the help received – you will acquire unceasing prayer.
75. If you pray – then you exist; if you do not have prayer – you have not yet been born.
76. When your mind comes to grips with the spirit of anger, prayer is then already to be alive in your heart, if not – zealosly learn to master prayer in humility and you will acquire unceasing prayer.
77. Learn to overcome evil through prayer even in small things, otherwise you shall not win in the big battle against evil.
78. Seek not to immediately get to grips with the enemy one on one, be able to defeat the enemy initially within the fortress – in your heart, deflecting the countless thoughts.
79. When you learn to defeat the enemy within your heart, you will be able to confront him wherever you may be, and whatever temptations you may run into.
80. If you let in a thought in your heart – you get connected to this thought; if you you cut the thought off through prayer – you get connected with God.
81. Thoughts have come – so a trouble has come, too; if you cut thoughts off through prayer – peace shall come.
82. THe who seeks peace, loses it; he who seeks unceasing prayer shall find it.
83. [Even] If you cross the world far and wide – you will find nothing better than prayer, and when you do find prayer – you'll also find all its unspeakable blessings.
84. If you try to to take prayer by force – you will lose it; if you seek prayer in humility – you will find peace and quiet and prayer shall become inseparable from your heart.
85. Little birds cannot flutter wings long in flight: having gathered speed, they give their wings a little rest. Take their example for yourself in beginner's prayer.
86. Eagles may soar long in the air without moving their wings. Take their example for yourself in constant prayer.
87. A skilled worker can do any job, not forgetting the lunch; a skillful monk can perform any obedience, not forgetting the prayer.
88. A skillful carpenter, fascinated by work, forgets about the inconveniences; a skillful monk who has mastered prayer forgets about himself and about all the world.
89. The more a musician forgets about the audience, the better he plays; the more a monk forgets about the world, the better his prayer.
90. A farmer to have abandoned his field may not be called a farmer; a monk who who does not look after purifying his heart in prayer and repentance may not be called a monk.
91. Heaven and earth get connected in the heart where all that is infected by sin – evil thoughts, desires, and passions – get cut off and destroyed by unceasing prayer.
92. A soul nurturing envy has no solace in prayer, for prayer holds onto humility and love of neighbor.
93. A fox rejoices having stolen through a hole into a hen-coop; the devil, too, rejoices having made it into the mind through thoughts.
94. Fox does not come close to the henhouse if there is a guard dog and the owner is on the watch; also the devil, too, does not come close to the mind if it is guarded by heed and prayer.
95. When we forget to compel ourselves to prayer work, then we for a long time forget about the Kingdom of Heaven and about ourselves until the Lord of Mercy wakes us up from that lulling by tribulations.
96. To keep hold of unceasing prayer in one's heart – this is plowing the heart; to pray in repentance – this is sowing; a prayer with humility and fear of God – this is growths shooting up; and Love filling up all the heart – this is the fruit of prayer – good, profuse, and perfect.
97. Monks are different: some exert all powers to acquiring unceasing prayer, others care about decorating the churches and monasteries, still others just wear monastic raiment.
98. To become genuinely kind is possible only to the one who fully defeats all the power of evil and stands in good, being strengthened by the help of God and prayer.
99. When a monk takes a stop in his movement toward God and in acquiring unceasing prayer, he slides back and standing up after that is very difficult.
100. When a man starts thinking that what he has acquired on the spiritual path – and especially in prayer – is enough for him, he loses even what he had.
101. If you only take from life and give back nothing, you will not gain the main thing – prayer.
102. You should give up yourself entirely to prayer, and if not so – then this is a prayer no longer.
103. Never lose prayer under the onslaught of bad thoughts, desires and passions – and you shall gain unshakable support in Christ.
104. Perpetrate sin in thoughts – and you will draw other, still more evil thoughts; destroy sin in thoughts through prayer – and you will in fact destroy sin and have peace with God.
105. Pride is a disease of the soul, humility is its health, and prayer is the best of medicine.

106. The same a seriously ill man needs good medicines, and not quotes from the medical manual, the one who is in severe spiritual warfare needs above all prayer and not his knowing of spiritual books.
107. As a patient operated by a surgeon cannot argue with the surgeon during surgery, so thoughts cannot resist the Jesus prayer when it cuts thoughts off from the heart.
108. He who seeks unceasing prayer planning on benefits, receives no benefit, nor prayer itself.
109. He who seeks unceasing prayer for love of Christ, acquires all goods that unceasing prayer brings along.
110. To him who lives in unceasing prayer there are no insuperable difficulties.
111. He who neglects the acquisition of unceasing prayer wastes his time and life.
112. He who rushes with all forces at acquiring unceasing prayer – still being on the earth – finds life eternal.
113. He who seeks to acquire unceasing prayer must be willing to die for the sake of purity of heart and chastity.
114. If a man rushes to not accepting unchaste prilogs [the beginning of a thought – the first degree of sin's entering the soul] even in thoughts – he is not far from acquiring unceasing prayer.
115. He who strives after acquiring unceasing prayer and does not protect one's heart from impure thoughts and passions – exposes himself to great danger and loses God's help.
116. Always search for the reasons for failure in acquiring unceasing prayer within yourself and be grateful to those who, by their advice help you heal from mental infirmities.
117. For the acquisitgion of unceasing prayer there are no adverse circumstances and conditions.
118. Overcome all obstacles through a ceaseless effort to find unceasing prayer – and the help of God will not forsake you.
119. Always strive to achieve the main goal – the acquisition of unceasing prayer and Salvation, and the Lord shall append to it all the rest.
120. Do not exchange your spiritual for trifles – transient earthly goods, for these will rob you and shall leave you naked and helpless – without prayer and without Salvation.


Sayings of the Ascetics about the Prayer

The Elders of Optina Monastery
Concerning that which Brings us Close to God


111. Do not forsake prayer, for just as the body becomes weak when it is deprived of food, so also the soul when it is deprived of prayer draws nigh to weakness and noetic death.(St. Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 44)

112. -128. Consistently pray in all things, so that you might not do anything without the help of God ... Whoever does or busies himself with anything without prayer does not succeed in the end. Concerning this, the Lord said: "Without Me you can't do anything". (John 15:5)
(St. Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.94,166)

129. Whatever we do or say without prayer always ends up either sinful or harmful and convicts us through the deeds in some mysterious way.(St. Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.108)

130. The prayer of one who does not consider himself a sinner is not accepted by the Lord.(St. Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 55)

131. God hears and fulfills the prayer of a man who fulfills His commandments. "Hear God in His commandments," says St. John Chrysostom, "So that He might hear you in your prayers." A man who keeps the commandments of God is always wise, patient, and sincere in his prayers. Mystery of prayer consists in the keeping of God's commandments.(St. Justin Popovich, Explanation of I John, 3:22)

132. Give your intentions in prayer to God, Who knows everyone, even before our birth. And do not ask that everything will be according to your will, because a man does not know what is profitable for him. But say to God: Let Thy will be done! For He does everything for our benefit.(St. Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain, 47)

133. Everyone who asks something of God and does not receive it doubtless does not receive it for one of these reasons: either because they ask before the time, or they ask unworthily, or out of vainglory, or because if they received what they asked they would become proud or fall into negligence.(St. John of the Ladder, Ladder, 26.60)

134. Whoever wants to approach prayer without a guide, and proudly thinks that he can learn from books, and won't go to an elder, is already halfway into delusion. But the Lord helps the humble, and if there is no experienced guide, and he goes to a confessor, whoever he may be, then the Lord will cover him because of his humility.(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, II.1)

135. If, at the time when the mind is praying it is distracted by any extraneous thought or worry about anything, then this prayer is not called pure.(St. Isaac the Syrian, Homilies, 16)

136. If you become proud when you receive what you ask in prayer, then it is obvious that your prayer was not to God, and you did not receive help from Him, but the demons were working with you in order to exalt your heart; For when help is given from God, the soul is not exalted, but is all the more humbled, and she is amazed at the great mercy of God, how merciful He is to sinners.(St. Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 418)

137. When God wants to have mercy on someone, He inspires someone else to pray for him, and He helps in this prayer.(St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XX.9)

138. In times of affliction, unceasingly call out to the merciful God in prayer. The unceasing invocation of the name of God in prayer is a treatment for the soul which kills not only the passions, but even their very operation. As a doctor finds the necessary medicine, and it works in such a way that the sick person does not understand, in just the same way the name of God, when you call upon it, kills all the passions, although we don't know how this happens.(St. Barsanuphius the Great, Instructions, 421)


Jesus Prayer - Prayer of the Heart

The Jesus Prayer is very simple:
"Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,"
(For different languages)
The Jesus Prayer according to numerous Church Fathers is "essential" to our spiritual growth. The Jesus Prayer proclaims our faith and humbles us by asking mercy for our sinfulness. The Jesus Prayer is thought to be as old as the Church itself.

The Jesus Prayer, says Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, “more than any other,” helps us to be able to “stand in God’s presence.”This means that the Jesus Prayer helps us to focus our mind exclusively on God with “no other thought” occupying our mind but the thought of God. At this moment when our mind is totally concentrated on God, we discover a very personal and direct relationship with Him.
Jesus Christ - the Power In the Name
The Jesus Prayer's power comes from the use of our Lord's Name, Jesus Christ, Son of God. It is a confession of our faith.
...read more about the power of the name Jesus Christ
Jesus Prayer requires Humility
The Jesus Prayer in its practice assumes you are a regular participant in the worship services of the Church, in her Sacraments and aware of your sinfulness. Be sure to consult with and follow the advice of your spiritual Father. Humility is a prerequisite for all prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer.
...read more about role of humility in practicing the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer Has Two Functions
The Jesus Prayer has two important purposes. The first is worship as with all prayer. The second is a discipline to help our soul gain control our overactive brains and create stillness so the Holy Spirit can work through us and help us live the virtues in union with God.
...read more about the two functions of the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer Has Three Stages in PracticeThe Jesus Prayer involves three stages of progress in its practice. You begin praying the Jesus Prayer by repeating the words of the prayer out loud or at least moving the lips. This is called verbal prayer. After some time saying of the Jesus Prayer becomes silent or mental and is repeated only in the mind. This is mental prayer. Finally, the Jesus Prayer becomes a continuous prayer in the heart, the inner core of our being. We begin with vocal prayer and do not force the move to mental prayer. This will happen naturally when you are ready.
... read more about the three stages of the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer in Practice
In praying the Jesus Prayer, our holy Fathers tell us, we say it over and over hundreds of times as part of our daily prayer rule. It is best to add the Jesus Prayer to your morning prayers as this is when the mind is the quietest. Begin by saying the Jesus Prayer verbally focusing on each word. Repeat the Jesus Prayer continually for 15 minutes at first and then expand to 30 minutes. You will experience the challenge of dealing with your thoughts, the tendency for you mind to wander. Attention when praying the Jesus Prayer is important. Be sincere in your prayer and repeat it with contrition. Praying the Jesus Prayer is that simple!
... read more about how to practice the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer is A Long and Difficult Path
Do not be fooled by its simplicity. The Jesus Prayer practice is a difficult task and like all ascetic practices it requires commitment of time, patience and perseverance. Remember Jesus Prayer's aim is not to obtain a calmness or any kind of spiritual experience, but to become in communion with God and participate in His grace.
... read more on difficult path in practicing the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer's Possible Problems Encountered and Cautions
...read more Problems in Using the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer - When To Pray
The Jesus Prayer will eventually be prayed throughout the day and when this happens, you will find that your life changes.
...read more about when to pray using the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer is Not a Form of Eastern Meditation
The praying of the Jesus Prayer should not be confused with methods used in Eastern Yoga or meditation. In praying the Jesus Prayer as in all Orthodox Prayer we are seeking a relationship with a personal God based on faith and love.

"Jesus Prayer," it's also known as "The prayer of the heart." Prayer Within The Heart.

Holy Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ
Holy Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ

This prayer is called the "Jesus Prayer," but it's also known in the Orthodox Church as "The prayer of the heart." This prayer can be said by not only monastics, but also any lay person can say the prayer. This humble prayer is prayed with a prayer rope in hand. The prayer rope was first made by monastics of the Church and the laity of the church then adopted the use of the prayer rope as well. Prayer ropes can be found in 25, 50, to 100 knots and sometimes more. The prayer rope also are made of different colors, black is used mainly by monastics, but any color can be used. What is required of this beautiful prayer is to help us keep Christ in our hearts, and to pray unceasing. Obtain the book: "The Way of the Pilgrim," to better understand the prayer of the heart. To begin the prayer, we would say on each knot: O LORD, JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY UPON ME A SINNER. We continue the prayer first with the lips, in a low whisper, and with the mind say the prayer, after much struggle with the prayer, the prayer enters the heart, one now has the prayer of the heart. Once the prayer enters the heart then we must constantly continue to say the prayer. Monastics for example are told to use their prayer ropes, and say 1000 knot prayers in their cell -room, we too must spiritually discipline ourselves to say the prayer as often as we can.... Once we have the prayer of the heart, suddenly with all the presures of the day, one may be working, or doing something around the house, and the heart says the prayer all by itself, without you asking it to do so...this in itself is true union with our God. We now have unceasing prayer with Christ our true God. I humbly suggest to you to obtain a prayer rope, and to begin the prayer... Amen.
Father Demetrios Serfes, Priest
Who Prays For You!

Prayer Within The Heart
by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes

Where there is prayer, God is present, especially when that prayer comes from within the heart. God loves to hear us pray when we pray from the heart, as He is quick to listen to us and to respond to us with a greater love than we would ever experience on this earth.

True prayer is in the heart. So many of us sometimes find it difficult to pray, and we need reminding that when we do pray we should do so with all of our mind, our heart, and our soul. The need then is to take the prayer from our mind - before it reaches our lips - and let it enter our heart: and then we let the heart say the prayer. The most commonly known prayer is the ‘Prayer of the Heart’, Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Even the Orthodox ascetics knew that in order for them to progress to true prayer, they had to learn with faith to pray within the heart and therefore have communion with our Lord God. No matter what prayers we say in Church, at home, and indeed anywhere, prayer from within the heart is spiritually rewarding for us.

Of course we cannot put our trust in ourselves as we pray - we are frail and fallible. What we do need is the proper guidance to pray, and so when we do pray we turn to our loving Almighty God, confident that He will guide us, as He loves to hear us pray within the heart. Does He listen to our prayer, especially when it’s from within the heart? Yes! God knows that we want to pray, but time and again temptation comes our way, and of course the devil himself wants to prevent us from praying, or having any communion with our Lord God. Everything we do, every word we speak, every thought we have, every feeling that we experience is supposed to be in accordance with the words of the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to act upon these teachings, and when we become weak in our spiritual lives we can then find great strength in praying within the heart.

In those times when we actually fail, and stop praying to God, the sense of being abandoned by God sets in, and the presence of His Divine Light is then replaced by a heavy darkness of the passions which are in revolt, a great change takes place in us, and conflict rends the soul - a bitter state of mind and heart to be in. But our gracious God has an eternal promise for us who believe in Him and would seek to rid ourselves of the hard-heartedness that besets us. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26). He will! He does!

We, as Christians, cannot allow pride and self-sufficiency to take hold of us, thinking we do not need God - we do! The way to keep that Divine Light which is the love of our God constantly in our hearts is to pray from within the heart of flesh which He has given us by His Spirit.

Our faith in our God too can help win the battle. "But, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren" (St. Luke 22:32). Therefore our prayer within the heart must be filled with faith as we are then strengthened and spiritually comforted.

When we do pray how do we do this prayer? When is the last time we actually prayed in prostration before God and cried out, weeping in prayer like the publican: "God be merciful to me a sinner," (St. Luke 18:13) or even cry out like the Holy Apostle Peter: "Lord, save me" (St. Matthew 14:30). How about the way the Holy Prophet and God-Seer Moses prayed? He kept his arms uplifted in prayer. When is the last time a tear fell from our eyes in prayer? When is the last time we lifted up our arms to our God in prayer? Then again when is the last time we prayed from our hearts within? In praying we need to come before our God with great humility and with compunction.

Humility can help us to spiritually overcome the pride of our prayer, since humility does suspend pride. We cannot create our own world, but rather what we should be doing, in praying within the heart, is to realize that humility is quick to receive life from God.

Our Gracious Lord God will never abandon us when we struggle with prayer within the heart, just as our Lord watched over the ascetics within the Church, and the Saints of the Church. What is important for us all to realize is that our Lord watches over us and is aware when we are wrestling with the enemy. He is always with us and we should never be afraid. Even when we think everything around is failing, and the powers beyond us want us to fail, we must allow our faith to be strong, and turn to our Gracious God in prayer once again.

As Orthodox Christians we should seek to be pious in our prayer, putting our trust in God, and dwelling in prayer. Let us not be troubled, because we only make our enemy happy. Prayer from within truly delights our God!

Pray from within the heart, for when we pray we behold the Saints, and can discern the way those Saints followed, finding the true Divine Light of the presence of our Lord God in our hearts and in our lives. Pray! Pray within the heart!

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen.


But just as essential is that we all should realize that we need to pray not just in times of crisis, in times of deep grief and anguish, but continually, seeking the Divine Will and Purposes until our hearts and His are completely in tune, as one.
The oneness that is so desirable takes time, patience and humility, and our working towards it includes the process of interceding for our present situation. So we pray for those who have lost their lives, and pray for those who have become victims! Then again we pray for those who are leading our country, that they too will be guided by Our Lord God in prudence, dispassion and circumspection, so that His wonderful peace may prevail among all men! Love your country, and love Our Lord God! Pray! Pray in your home, and pray in Church! Go to Church to pray and take your family with you! Encourage your children to pray by setting them a good and meaningful example. Never forget that true prayer brings great mercy from Our Lord God! Pray when you get up in the morning, pause to pray in your coffee break! Pray again during your midday meal! Pray for your family, pray for your relatives, pray for your friends and your neighbors as well. Pray for your country, pray for your civil authorities, and remember that every soul on this earth is truly precious in the sight of Our Lord God! Unceasingly pray! Pray without ceasing! Let us train ourselves to pray! "He who does not train himself to frequent prayer will never receive unceasing prayer" wrote the Holy Apostle St. Paul Epistle to the Thessalonians: (5:17). Please also read humbly from St. Paul Epistle to the 2nd Thessalonians chapter one verse four. Then again we should adhere to the prayers of the Church, the beautiful, spiritually uplifting prayers that so simply bring them to our eyes, and pray with love! What gives us true peace is the presence of Christ Our Lord, His saints, His apostles, His martyrs, His prophets, His ascetics, and His Mother, the Most holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary. What a great spiritual peace comes to us as members of this heavenly fellowship! All of this is the result of our love to pray! Pray! Our minds and spirits are healed when we pray, and we become united in the Lord! God Himself will never abandon us! What is spiritually rewarding for us all, during the various times of our lives, is that when we pray we are with peace with Our God. Now, if we have not learnt to pray, then we should urgently seek to know more about prayer. There is a great deal of information in the Holy Scriptures, as well as in the teachings of the Holy Fathers, and Saints, as well as the Ascetics of our beloved Holy Orthodox Church. We can also learn about prayer by standing with our Bishop in prayer. Have we ever attended the most beautiful service of a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy? We can also pray in Church with our parish priest, and perhaps even attend a monastic community and pray with the monks, and nuns -they love to pray! Pray with them! Open the Holy Scriptures of the Holy Prophet David and read the Psalms - they are so spiritually refreshing for us, and help us to learn what great prayer can be like. The Holy Prophet David had been called "A man after God's own heart" so his prayers in the Psalms are very good examples for us. Many of the pious of the Orthodox Church use the Psalms in prayer, and almost every monastic and ascetic of the Church are found praying the Psalms on a constant daily basis. The Orthodox Church even has a rule listing which Psalms should be read for a particular service or feast day. The Orthodox Church loves the Psalms! So open the book of Psalms and pray! Try it and discover the spiritual satisfaction that will come! Pray! As we pray we will have peace within ourselves, and with Our Lord God! With true Christ-loving prayer comes spiritual joy, and our love of Our Lord God will deepen and grow in maturity. We will also begin to learn that by prayer we behold one another as brothers and sisters in Christ Our Lord, all praying together with love! Pray! May God Bless America, and may Our Lord God help us, and watch over us all - and He will, when indeed we pray! Humbly I assure you of my God loving prayers, and beg your prayers for me a sinner! Peace to your soul! Your Friend In Christ Our Lord,
+Reverend Presbyter Demetrios Serfes



St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov): When the Savior of the World commended the publican’s prayer, He later allowed and granted us to pray using His all-holy name.

Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. On Prayer and Repentance

In today's Gospel, the prayer of the publican is shown drawing God’s mercy to him. This prayer consisted of the following words: God be merciful to me a sinner (Lk. 18:13). It is worthy of our attention that God heard such a short prayer, and that it was pronounced in the temple, during the common worship services, during the reading and chanting of psalms and other prayers. This prayer is commended in the Gospels; it is set forth as an example of prayer, and it becomes our sacred duty to piously contemplate it.
Why didn't the publican choose some majestic and moving psalm by which to pour out his heart before God, but instead had recourse to such a brief prayer? Why did he repeat only it during the entire service? Our answer is according to that of the holy Fathers.[1] When true repentance begins to shudder in the soul, when humility and contrition of spirit arises there because one’s eyes have been opened to the soul’s sinfulness, then loquacity becomes unbearable, impossible. Concentrating within itself, turning all its attention upon its disastrous condition, the soul begins to call out to God through some form of short, concise prayer.
When an encompassing view of his own sinfulness is granted to a person by God, it cannot be described by eloquent speech or an abundance of words; more exactly, the person expresses this awareness by sighs and groaning of soul, clothed in very brief and simple words. Whoever wishes to unfold a deep feeling of repentance within himself uses short prayer to reach that state, pronounced with as much attention and reverence as possible. Abandoning excessive words, even though they be sacred words, allows the mind to completely free itself of distractions and to strive for introspection with all its strength. “When you pray, do not permit yourself to use many words,” says St. John Climacus, “so that your mind might not be distracted from considering the words. One word from the publican brought him God’s mercy, and one faithful utterance saved the thief. Much speaking in prayer often brings the mind to distraction and dreaminess, while sparse words usually gather the thoughts.”[2]
Because of the great benefit that brief, attentive, concentrated prayer brings, the Holy Church enjoins its children to timely learn some form of brief prayer. One who has learned such a prayer possesses a ready ability to pray in any place, at any time. While traveling, in the refectory, doing handiwork, or in the company of others, he can cry out to God. When it is not possible to pray with the lips, it is possible to pray with the mind. The convenience of brief prayer is obvious in this regard: it is quite easy to lose the meaning and order of lengthy prayers when we are occupied with something else, while short prayer always preserves its integrity. If it is left off for a time, one can return to it with little difficulty. Even during Church services, it is beneficial to repeat a short prayer in the cell of the soul—it not only does not sway the attention from the prayers being read or chanted in God’s temple, but it even facilitates particularly careful attention to them, preventing the mind from becoming distracted. If the mind is not restrained in introspection through a short prayer that fills the soul with a feeling of repentance, it becomes easily distracted. It drops its attention to the church reading and singing, and is drawn into empty musing and daydreams.
This is what happened to the Pharisee mentioned today, who paid only superficial attention to the services, and was drawn into sinful thoughts. Sinful thoughts not only deprived his already weak prayer of any worth, but they also made it an excuse to judge a man who prayed. God rejected the prayer of the Pharisee—the Pharisee left the temple marked with the seal of God’s wrath, without understanding or perceiving his soul’s calamity, because his heart, dead to repentance, was filled with self-satisfaction and self-deception. When short prayer becomes a habit through frequent and constant use, it becomes something natural.
When we listen to something that occupies our attention, we might utter various exclamations, which not only do not obstruct our attention, but even sharpen it. It is the same when we acquire the habit of brief prayer; through it we express our concordance with and attention to the prayers and psalms we hear.
Throughout the forty days fast, at all the Church services, the prayer, God, have mercy on me, a sinner! is repeated aloud to all who are present. Why is the same prayer repeated so often? So that we would learn to repeat it often. The short prayer, Lord have mercy, is also repeated often, and for the same reason.
When the Savior of the World commended the publican’s prayer, He later allowed and granted us to pray using His all-holy name. This prayer is called the Jesus Prayer, because of the Lord Jesus' name, and because He instituted it. During the reign of the Old Testament, man turned in prayer to a God he still knew only imperfectly. When another reign began in the New Testament, an expansive completion to the old prayer was presented to man—a new way of praying to the God-Man as the intercessor between God and humans; a new way of praying to the intercessor through Whom the Godhead is united with mankind; to the intercessor Whom God hath declared (cf. Jn. 1:18), Who has described God to man with as much precision and fullness as is possible for human comprehension.
The Old Testament prayer, God have mercy on me, a sinner, sounds like the New Testament prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. The Old Testament servants of God used the first prayer; the New Testament servants, while also using the first, use the second more, because it has pleased the God-Man to unite an especially miraculous spiritual power with His human name. Also used for ceaseless prayer is the prayer, Lord have mercy. It is an abbreviated form of the Jesus Prayer, and replaces it in those instances when it is hard to pronounce the entire Jesus Prayer; for example: when we are frightened, at times of unexpected joy, at times of serious illness, or during spiritual visions. In the latter instance, the exclamation, Lord have mercy is the mind’s response to the grace-filled knowledge that comes to it once it has been purified—a knowledge that exceeds the mind's comprehension, and cannot be expressed in words.[3]
What meaning do the verb phrases, have mercy, or be merciful contain in all these prayers? It is man’s awareness that he is perishing; it is the perception of the mercy and pity that the Lord commanded us to feel toward ourselves, but which very few actually do feel; it is the rejection of our own self-opinion; it is a request for God’s mercy, without which there is no hope of salvation for the one who is perishing. God’s mercy is nothing other than the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, and we sinful ones should ceaselessly and unrelentingly ask it of God. Have mercy, my Lord, upon the disastrous state into which I have fallen, having been deprived of Thy grace, and again make Thy grace to dwell in me. Strengthen me with Thy governing spirit (Ps. 50:12), a spirit of Thy power, so that I might withstand the temptation brought against me by the devil, and the temptation that comes from my fallen nature. Send me a spirit of chastity, so that I might come out of this state of delirium,[4] and correct my moral steps. Give me the Spirit of Thy fear, so that I might have [godly] fear of Thee, as it is proper for a weak creature to fear his great God and Creator, so that by my awe before Thee I might hold Thy commandments sacred. Root love for Thee within my heart, so that I may never again be separated from Thee, nor be distracted by an irresistible attraction to loathsome sin. Grant me Thy peace, that it might preserve my soul in unperturbed calm, not allowing my thoughts to wander over the entire universe without need and to my own injury, to my own confusion; that it might concentrate them in introspection, and bear them upwards thence to Thy throne. Give me a Spirit of meekness, so that I might refrain from anger and malice, that I might be continually filled with goodness toward my brother. Give me a Spirit of humility of mind, so that I would not be high-minded, or dream about myself, or seek praise and human glory; but that I might rather remember that I am earth and ashes, a fallen being, cast down to the earth for my unworthiness. I must be taken from this body and world by death, and appear before Thy dread and impartial judgment.[5]God, be merciful to me a sinner! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me! Lord, have mercy!
Many pronounce these brief prayers with great haste, caring only to say the required number of them. By this manner of praying, they do not allow the prayers to penetrate the heart and produce their inherent effect, which is tender feeling. The holy Fathers justly note that whoever prays thus prays to the wind, and not to God.[6] Why do we get bored in church? Because we have not felt the effect of prayer. Why do we rush to a lavish table? Because we know the meaning of material food from experience. Why do we not rush to church, but try to come a little later, when a significant portion of the Divine services are already over? Because we do not know from experience the meaning of prayer, which is food for the soul, and which imparts spiritual strength to the soul. We do not know from experience the meaning of prayer because we pray hastily, superficially, and without attention. The effect on the soul of long but inattentive prayer is like the effect of copious rain upon a metal roof, from which all the water runs off, no matter how much it pours, without having any effect at all upon the roof. In contrast, attentive prayer can be likened to a beneficial rain that waters a planted field, giving nourishment to the growth there, and preparing a rich harvest.
The disciples of prayer who lean upon its breast—the holy Fathers—correct a major mistake that deprives the praying ascetic of all the fruits of his ascetic labor. They instruct us to pronounce the words of short prayers and of all kinds of prayer without haste, observing scrupulous attention to the words of the prayers.[7] When the prayers are read unhurriedly, it is possible to have such attention, while hurried reading leaves no place for attention. Prayer without attention is like a body which the soul has left: it has no fragrance of humility, it does not ascend to God. Stricken and deadened by dispersed thoughts, it crawls along the earth of corruption and foul smell, imparting this corruption to those who pray carelessly and coldly. Mental attention at prayer is reflected in the heart by blessed grief over sins, which is that very repentance that God commands us to have. When the heart is filled with a feeling of repentance, it in turn draws the mind to increased attention. Once there is attention and tender feeling, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit enter into the soul, making it a temple of God.
Let us provide our prayer with two qualities: attention and repentance. Let it fly up to the heavens with them as upon two wings, then appear before the face of God, and intercede for us to gain His mercy. The blessed publican’s prayer had these two qualities. Penetrated by the awareness of his sinfulness, he did not have any hope in his own deeds to receive salvation; he had hope only in God’s mercy, which calls all sinners to repentance, and grants them salvation for repentance alone. As a sinner who had no goodness of his own, the publican took the last place in the temple. As a sinner who is unworthy of heaven, he did not dare to lift his eyes unto heaven. His eyes were directed toward the ground; and beating upon his heart with repentance from deep within his heart, he pronounced with his whole soul the prayer united with his confession: God be merciful to me, a sinner.
His prayer was so effective and strong, that the sinner left the temple of God justified. The Lord Who knoweth the hearts, the Savior of men, testified to this—and the Prophet’s words were fulfilled in this repentant sinner: For the Lord shall build up Sion to the human soul that has been destroyed by the fall, and He shall be seen in His glory. He hath regarded the prayer of the humble, and hath not despised their supplication. Let this be written for another generation; let it be written that all mankind would know it, let it be written that all tribes and future Christian generations might know it! And the people that is being created through repentance and attentive prayer, having felt their renewal through Divine grace, shall praise the Lord (Ps. 101: 16–18), Who hath been well pleased to take on humanity, and to save people through His wondrous care, and His wondrous teachings. Amen.

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Translated by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

04 / 02 / 2012

[1] St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, vol. 14, letter 4.
[2] St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 28.
[3] The Philokalia, St. Peter Damascene, “On seven mental visions,” from “The separation of prayers of all understandings,” 1:3.
[4] Умоисступления, which means a state of extreme agitation or nervous stimulation with loss of self-control and the ability to act in a healthy and reasonable manner. —Trans.
[5] Borrowed from Elder Paisius Velichkovsky’s explanation of the prayer, Lord have mercy. From The writings of Elder Paisy, (Optina Monastery: 1847) [in Russian].
[6] St. Nilus of Sora, Preface to his Inheritance.
[7] “Stand silent, until all the senses have become quiet. Then begin without haste, without laziness, but with tender feeling, with contrition of heart, to say: Blessed is the man (Ps.1:1) and the rest, quietly and rationally, with attention, and not hurriedly: that the mind might also understand what is being said.” From the instructions before reading the Psalter.