This is the 2nd blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.” The first blog is Why Pray? The collection of quotes was assembled through decades of reading various texts, then tagging passages which stuck out in my mind for various reasons with the tag, “prayer.” Through the years (and being a voracious reader) a large number of passages accumulate under the tag of prayer.
These passages I’m now assembling and organizing together. So this is not a “research” paper in which I sought out information on the topic of prayer, but rather a collection of passages from books I read through the decades and found in them quotes which seemed at the time I read them important to my understanding of prayer. Tagging and collecting the quotes was made easy by my use of computer word processing. Word processing made the computer immediately important to my life. Computers are absolutely phenomenal at collecting and storing data. I will admit that I had never conceived of writing as “word processing” until the existence of the home computer. The word processor is a wonderful tool in the hands of the skilled word smith.
Now I intend to publish in a blog series these quotes which I tagged and collected under the topic “prayer.” Perhaps at times I will impose an order on them to indicate what significance I found in the quote. At other times I will simply let the passage which spoke to me in some way at the time I originally read it, to speak for itself. As an assemblage of quotes, they may sometimes appear to offer opposing or contradictory thinking. I didn’t read them all at once but over many years. I didn’t collect them because they followed a homogeneous train of thought on prayer. I like to read and as I read I highlight in the books I own passages which stand out in my thinking. It is part of my own word processing system. Now I am publishing in this blog series a collection of quotes on prayer which have shaped my own thinking on the topic. When I found one, I’ve included a hyperlink to the book which is being quoted in case you want to check the quote or get the book.
“Prayer is necessary for acquiring the love of God, because from prayer we discover the causes for loving God.” (St. Isaac the Syrian, THE ASCETICAL HOMILIES, p 303)
Acquiring the “love of God” in itself justifies the activity of prayer. There is nothing greater that I can wish for my children or parishioners than that they acquire a love of God. I wish that for everyone in the world. It is the most valuable thing in the world, and perhaps the only truly valuable thing. To have the awareness of God’s love in life, makes every moment not only tolerable but worthwhile. Without it we are left with a world with many wonders and wonderful things, but ultimately empty for it all is passing away and has no meaning. That is my evaluation of the world.
I wish each of you might have a constant awareness of the presence of God and that this experience would serve as a compass to your life.
Without the love of God, Orthodox spiritual literature tells us there is that risk that we subject ourselves to other forces and powers at work in the world. God is love, and His purpose is to love all of His creation. But in creation there exist those forces which do oppose the love of God, as unbelievable as that seems.
“When a man is not with God, he is always a plaything of the devil, and the devil plays with him: one moment he fills his soul with impure thoughts, another moment he kindles his tongue with cursing, another moment he leads him into slandering, into calumny, into thievery, into debauchery, and into every other evil deed. And it continues this way until a man remembers God, takes refuge in the temple of God, and falls down before God. Then – he is entirely in heaven, and neither the human evils of the world, nor sins, nor demons can touch him. At that moment he is in a fortress defended by the angels, defended by God’s saints, and with the fiery ardor of their prayers they consume every evil that is assailing him from men, from the world, from demons, from hell.” (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, THE STRUGGLE FOR FAITH, p 87)
Prayer acquires for us the love of God and places us in heaven. Heaven is term used to describe the place “where” God dwells. And God dwells even in the hearts of humans.
For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)
Finally, prayer does not require us to have obtained perfection before we can pray. Prayer is always available to us all as a way to find the God of love. Even at times when we are tempted, when we have lost the sense of God’s presence, or when we are in despair.
“The more dejected we feel, the greater the necessity for prayer. This is surely what John of Kronstadt felt one day when he was praying, watched by a devil who was muttering, ‘You hypocrite, how dare you pray with your filthy mind, full of the thoughts I read in it’. He answered, ‘It is just because my mind is full of thoughts I dislike and fight that I am praying to God.’” (METROPOLITAN ANTHONY , p 66)
It is always the appropriate time for prayer, and we might in any condition realize our need for prayer and for God’s love.
Next: Why Pray (III)