Monday, October 10, 2011

My Struggle in Prayer

Effective prayer can be a struggle. So often when I approach my prayer time I find my mind distracted so that I simply go though a routine without any feelings. Usually, I memorize many of the prayers I say daily in addition to my intercessory prayers.  Memorization etches the prayer in my mind making it available to me at any time.

What happens frequently, though, is that my mind takes control and begins to pray automatically  This is not a good sign. Why? Because our prayers need to come from the heart with feeling and an awareness that we are engaged in a dialogue with God. We need to have the awe of His presence as we pray. An automatic prayer is not really a prayer. A prayer must come from the heart with feeling and understanding.  I find I must continually remind myself of this. Too often I fall into the trap of just putting in my time to fulfill my prayer rule. It is not about the time we spend in prayer, but the sincerity with which we pray that is of the most importance. 

Saint Theophan says,
When you are at prayer, recite your prayer or psalm from memory, and embrace each word, not just with thought, but with feeling.  If during this your own prayerful cries arise from some word of the psalm or prayer, do not cut them off, but let them come.
We are taught to have a prayer rule and to stick with each day. We are told to memorize our routine prayers. But the danger is that our prayer time becomes too routine and we do not "embrace each word, not just with thought but with feeling." We can easily fly through our prayer rule, like we are on automatic pilot,  and never allow for those precious moments of spontaneous prayer where our heart is fully open realizing God's mercy and help.

We do not need to have a complex set of prayers for effective prayer. We can have an effective prayer time with only one simple prayer such as the Jesus Prayer or the Lord's Prayer. But, we must be attentive to each word as we repeat the prayer over and over for our allotted prayer time. The words must drop into our heart and penetrate it deeply with feeling. With such attention, our hearts are opened and God's grace reaches out to embrace us with His mercy.

Saint Theophan says,
Labor, for nothing will come from you otherwise. If you are not successful in prayer, do not expect success in anything else. It is the root off everything.
Reference: The Spiritual Life, pp 289-290


  1. Thanks for your participation "Web Designer".

  2. LOL @ "Web Designer."

    Seriously, a reference for the "prayer is the root of everything" quote?

  3. St. Theophan is one of the hardest hitting spiritual giants I've ever read. You can tell that he really knew what he was talking about. You ought to do a post on his way of taking advantage of the grace you receive to repent from "The Path of Salvation." I forgot what he called that kind of grace but he had a name for it and a whole list of straight and to the point ways to cut off sin and take advantage of that grace.

    As of now I'm still a Catholic but still seriously discerning Orthodoxy. There are no Catholic spiritual writings on the life of prayer quite like the ones you Orthodox have. Keep up the blog.

  4. Dear Father Joiner,
    I do hope your recent silence is owing to you taking some well-deserved time out rather than an indication that you have terminated this blog.
    It's contents have always been such an inspiration and encouragement to me.
    Do let us know that you will be returning soon.
    Kind regards,
    Crispin Pemberton

  5. Hello Fr. Joiner, I, too, have been missing your blogs.........the LORD bless you!


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