Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dealing with Thoughts in Prayer

Fr. Sophrony writes:
By prayerfully fixing his attention in his heart, the ascetic strives to preserve his spirit from all thought.  Thoughts may be natural in everyday life but they can also be consequent on satanic influence.  In prayer, the ascetic renounces for the time being, to the degree that he finds possible (Which differs from person to person), the needs of his nature.  Thoughts of demonic origin,one excludes altogether.  This means that the mind at prayer rejects all thought, both natural and demonic....
He then warns about lights that may appear during prayer
Sometimes something occurs in deep-set prayer that is difficult to explain.  lights appear around the mind, trying to attract the mind's attention to themselves, and if the mind refuses to pay attention, they, as i were,say to the mind, 'We bring you wisdom and understanding, and if you refuse us now, maybe you will never see us again.'  But the experienced mind pays no attention whatever and they depart, not only unaccepted but even unacknowledged.  The mind does not know for sure if it was an evil enemy or a good angel; but it does know by experience that if it stops to consider the brilliant thought, it loses prayer, and with great pains must seek it again.  Experience shows that in the hour of prayer we must not listen even to good thoughts because if we do, other ideas will occur and, as elder Silouan said, 'You will not continue undistracted.' Nothing can compensate for the loss of pure prayer." (Sophrony, His LIfe is Mine, p 114)
The key is not to expect not to have thoughts but do not accept or consider them during prayer.  When they come politely reject them and return your attention to your prayer.


More on Attention in Prayer 

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