Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Steps in Nurturing Grace - "Fear" of God

What is meant by "fear of God"?  C.S. Lewis  describes it in his book, The Problem of Pain, and states that fear of the God is not a fear that one feels for a tiger, or even a ghost. It, is one filled with awe, in which you "feel wonder and a certain shrinking" or "a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant of or prostration before it". It is a fear that comes forth out of love for the Lord.

Saint Theophan tells us, as do many other Church Fathers, that having this "fear" is the first step.  It is a feeling that comes with our first encounter with God where we know without doubt that He exists.  It is the beginning of faith which is necessary for grace to work within us.

To nurture this "fear of God" prayer combined with the reading of spiritual books is recommended.  Instead of filling our minds with the endless content of the TV, give up some of this time and instead make time at the beginning of the day for prayer and reading of spiritual books including the Scriptures.
Saint Theophan says,
This reading with prayer preceding strengthens the sole and gives us strength for the entire day. Doctors say you should not leave the house on an empty stomach. With respect to the soul, this is fulfilled by morning prayer and reading. The soul is fed by them, and sets out on the business of the day nourished.
To help this process he suggest to get a notebook and to write down the thoughts that you have as you read the Gospel and other spiritual books. This helps you keep focused on the reading material and to nurture the thoughts that are stimulated from it.

One of the challenges with such reading and with prayer is that often thoughts overtake our concentration. It is almost like an involuntary distraction. They seem to come from nowhere uninvited. The main problem comes when we do not take action to deal with them. St. Theophan tells us, “as soon as you notice your thought wandering off, immediately put it back in its place.”

Prayer and reading of spiritual books are an essential part of our spiritual development. The key is to make choices to provide time for this new activity.  You will need to get up at least 30 minutes earlier in the morning.  This means you will have to go to bed thirty minutes earlier in the evening and give up some activity. When your desire for grace is strong enough you will be able to act on it and make the necessary changes. Our laziness is our worst enemy.

 Reference: The Spiritual Life, pp  145–146

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