Thursday, November 26, 2009

Supporting our Spiritual Yearning


Once grace has been awakened within us, and we begin to yearn for a closer relationship with God, we need to take actions to support its growth.

Saint Theophan suggests that the first action is to firmly establish in our minds the knowledge and fear of God.  He says, "He who has a live, active fear of God has within himself an inexhaustible strength which sets into motion all that is pleasing to God."1

His recommendation is to read spiritual books combined with prayer.  He says, "reading with prayer preceding strengthens the soul and gives it strength for the entire day."2

He is referring here to the Gospel.  He suggests, as one reads the Gospel, to write down thoughts in a notebook and record how what you are reading applies to your life and what you must do bring it in harmony with what is being taught in the Gospel.

In your prayer you essential to develop a focused mind so your thoughts do not run wild.  It is important when thoughts distract you in prayer to bring your attention back to your prayer.  Theophan suggests the following:
    Warm your soul before pryer with mediation and with bows.
    Use your own prayer: in the evening thank God for the day. Ask forgiveness for what went wrong and promise to make changes the next day.  Ask for His protection as you sleep.
    In the morning thank God for the sleep that revitalizes you.  Then ask Him to help you to do what you need to do this day.
    Combine this with the words from your prayer book for morning and evening prayer.  By doing the above you remove the distractions that are likely to interfere with your normal daily prayers.  Then the words from the prayer book will take on greater meaning .
    Also try and learn your prayers by heart.  This will help your concentration.
    Finally he says, "Learn to think of God not only when you are standing at prayer, but also at every hour at every minute, for He is everywhere.  from this peace will pour into your heart, giving strength for daily business and a regulating of affairs."3





1 Saint Theophan the Recluse, The Spiritual Life, p. 145
2 ibid.,  p. 146
3 ibid.,  p. 148

2 comments:

  1. I really like the recommendation to use our own prayers before using the words from the prayer book. I often find that I am so easily distracted by what I have to do that day (in the morning prayer time) or by what transpired throughout the day (in the evening prayer time) that I have a hard time focusing on the prayers in my prayer book.

    Thank you,
    Juliana

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  2. Thanks for the comment Juliana. St. Theophan is very clear in his instructions about prayer that the most important thing is our sincerity and attention. He does not recommend however that we forgo the written prayers unless we are very advanced in our prayer life. Like you, I find it best to begin my evening prayers with a thanksgiving for the activities of the day and asking forgiveness for things that did not go as I had wished.

    Here is a link to more by Saint Theophan on prayer from our orthodox prayer website. http://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Theophan-Prayer.html

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