Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why Does Prayer Need to Be Free From Thoughts?

Why is it important that prayer be free from thoughts?  To have true prayer our minds must be pure, still and totally open for an encounter with the infinite and all compassionate God.  When we have thoughts cluttering our mind in prayer, our prayer becomes focused on things of this world and our prayer time becomes a problem solving session with ourselves.  Our thoughts are like a pollutant that distorts our prayer and confuses our relationship with God with our own desires and needs.  It is a pure open mind that will gain grace that enables us to hear and do His will instead of our own will.

Saint Hesychius writes,
One who does not have prayer that is free from the thoughts is without a weapon for battle.  I understand prayer to be that which is carried out unceasingly within the depths of the soul, so that the enemy who is secretly fighting may be vanquished and scorched by this invocation to Christ.  For you must look with the sharply focused eye of the mind so that you will recognize what has entered into it, and after doing so, immediately cut off the head of the snake through refutation, and at the same time call on Christ with groaning. through experience you will come to know God's invisible help; then you will see clearly the true condition of the heart.
Our challenge is to have the sobriety to be watchful and attentive to the nature of our thoughts and to dismiss them when we enter into prayer.  As Saint Hesychius says, "you must look with the sharply focused eye of the mind" in prayer. This is the true purpose of our mind to enable us to focus on our Creator and discern His will for us.  As we repeat the Jesus Prayer, our  mind will instantly become focused on God and we will receive His grace which helps us deter all distracting thoughts.

One of the reasons we pray is to overcome the domination of our soul by the thoughts roaming thorough our minds, distracting it from a intimate relationship with God.  It is in prayer where thoughts are subdued that we find this relationship our soul seeks.

More on Jesus Prayer

Reference: The Spiritual Life, p 252


  1. Dear Fr Dn Charles, Very nice post. Truth is often a paradox. Pure and personal prayer is deepest without thoughts. While I am moving in that direction, I have a long ways to go. Thanks for all the advice along The Way.

  2. Very sweet! I would not genuinely have an excuse for something similar to this particular right now, but when My spouse and i ever before do, I'm going to be certain to revisit! Just about all I can say is that can be insane great!

  3. I would like to comment about the Yoga article. My wife and I do yoga at the gym. We are Greek Orthodox. We have no problem doing yoga. If it happens to increase our enjoyment of sex (as exercise will do) - we are definitely okay with this. We are happily married and enjoy our sex life together as husband and wife. We do not think that sex in marriage is only for having babies. We deeply express our love for each other in many ways. Our physical relationship with each other is one of those ways blessed by God in the sacrament of marriage. In this context we do not feel that yoga is bad. What if we simply changed the title - instead of calling it yoga, we could call it something else and perhaps remove the stigma associated with it. Thank you! :)

  4. I know how you are feeling about this. I was once whe you are on this subject. Then I learned about the ways of spiritual development in the Orthodox Tradition. They will lead you even further and the attention you gained from yoga will be of help. I found it difficult though to overcome my self-centered ness which such practices seem to emphasize even though you Are not aware of it.
    The issue is not sex but the focus or enhancement of bodily passions which you need to control to live a life according to Gods will rather than your own. Orthodox spirituality leads us to lift or mind and aspirations to things beyond this world. It's about putting the soul in control over our bodily instincts and desires. This does not negate the natural desires we have been given for a healthy life.


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