Prayer

 St Evagrios

  • Prayer is communion of the intellect with God (On prayer)

  • Prayer is the flower of gentleness and of freedom from anger (On prayer)

  • If you are a theologian you will pray truly. And if your pray truly, you are a theologian (On prayer)

St Gregory of Sinai

  • Had Moses not received the rod of power from God, he would not have become a god to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1) and a scourge both to him and to Egypt. Correspondingly the intellect, if it fails to grasp the power of prayer, will not be able to shatter sin and the hostile forces ranged against it (Philokalia)

St Hesychios the Priest

  • Prayer is a great blessing and it embraces all blessings, for it purifies the heart, in which God is seen by the believer. (On watchfulness and holiness)

St John Chrysostom

  • Prayer is a great weapon, a rich treasure, a wealth that is never exhausted, an undisturbed refuge, a cause of tranquillity, the root of a multitude of blessings and their source.

  • Prayer is the light of the soul, giving us true knowledge of God. It is a link mediating between God and man. By prayer the soul is borne up to heaven and in a marvellous way embraces the Lord. This meeting is like that of an infant crying on its mother, and seeking the best of milk. The soul longs for its own needs and what it receives is better than anything to be seen in the world.

  • Prayer is a precious way of communicating with God, it gladdens the soul and gives repose to its affections. You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God's grace. As Saint Paul says: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

  • For nothing— nothing is more powerful than prayer when fervent and genuine. This both disperses present dangers, and rescues from the penalties which take place at that hour. That therefore we may both complete our passage through the present life with ease, and depart there with confidence, with much zeal and eagerness let us perform this perpetually. (Concerning lowliness of mind)

John Climacus

  • Prayer by reason of its nature is the converse and union of man with God, and by reason of its action upholds the world and brings about reconciliation with God; it is the mother and also the daughter of tears, the propitiation for sins, a bridge over temptations, a wall against afflictions, a crushing of conflicts, work of angels, food of all the spiritual beings, future gladness, boundless activity, the spring of virtues, the source of graces, invisible progress, food of the soul, the enlightening of the mind, an axe for despair, a demonstration of hope, the annulling of sorrow, the wealth of monks, the treasure of solitaries, the reduction of anger, the mirror of progress, the realization of success, a proof of one's condition, a revelation of the future, a sign of glory. For him who truly prays, prayer is the court, the judgement hall and the tribunal of the Lord before the judgement to come. (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28)

  • Until we have acquired genuine prayer we are like people teaching children to begin to walk. (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28)

  • Your prayer will show you what condition you are in. Theologians say that prayer is the monk's mirror. (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 28.)

  • Ask with tears, seek with obedience, knock with patience. For thus he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocks it shall be opened.

  • Do not hesitate to go late at night to those places where you usually feel afraid. But if you yield only a little to such weakness, then this childish and ridiculous infirmity will grow old with you. As you go on your way, arm yourself with prayer. When you reach the place, stretch out your hands. Flog your enemies with the name of Jesus, for there is no stronger weapon in heaven or earth. When you get rid of the disease of fear, praise Him who has delivered you. If you continue to be thankful, He will protect you for ever.

  • Do not say, after spending a long time in prayer, that nothing has been gained; for you have already gained something. And what higher good is there than to cling to the Lord and persevere in unceasing union with Him?

  • If you feel sweetness or compunction at some word of your prayer, dwell on it; for then our guardian angel is praying with us.

  • Though you may have climbed the whole ladder of the virtues, pray for forgiveness of sins. Listen to the cry of Paul regarding sinners: Of whom I am chief. (I Timothy 1:15)

  • A Servant of the Lord stands bodily before men, but mentally he is knocking at the gates of heaven with prayer ( Ladder of divine ascent)

  • A furnace test gold. Prayer tests the zeal of a monk and his love for God. (Ladder of divine ascent)

  • Hold on to the staff of prayer and you will not fall. And even a fall will not be fatal, since prayer is a devout coercion of God (cf Luke 18:5) (Ladder of divine ascent)

St Mark the Ascetic

  • Prayer is called a virtue, but in reality it is the mother of the virtues: for it gives birth to them through union with Christ. (On those who think that they are made righteous by works)

Seraphim of Sarov

  • Hey When mind and heart are united in prayer and the soul is wholly concentrated in a single desire for God, then the heart grows warm and the light of Christ begins to shine and fills the inward man with peace and joy. We should thank the Lord for everything and give ourselves up to His will; we should also offer Him all our thoughts and words, and strive to make everything serve only His good pleasure.

Jesus prayer

St Isaac the Syrian

  • When I suffer in the name of God, I have boldness with Him; He helps in everything and grants me whatever I request. The power of the [Jesus] Prayer is great, especially when it is said with boldness.

Good prayer

St Evagrios

  • For prayer is truly vain and useless when not performed with fear and trembling, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. (Outline teaching on ascetism and stillness in the solitary life)

St Isaac the Syrian

  • God rejoices when a man offers Him a wise prayer.

Macarius of Optina

  • Pray simply. Do not expect to find in your heart any remarkable gift of prayer. Consider yourself unworthy of it. Then you will find peace. Use the empty cold dryness of your prayer as food fro your humility. Repeat constantly: I am not worthy, Lord,  I am not worthy! But say it calmly, without agitation. This humble prayer, unlike the sweet one you delight in, will be acceptable to God. (Letters)

St Mark the Ascetic

  • There is no perfect prayer unless the intellect invokes God; and when our thought cries aloud without distraction, the Lord will listen. (On those who think that they are made righteous by works)

  • Undistracted prayer is a sign of love for God; but careless or distracted prayer is a sign of love for pleasure. (On those who think they are made righteous by works)

  • If we have not attained prayer that is free from thoughts, we have no weapon to fight with. By this prayer I mean the prayer which is ever active in the inner shrine of the soul, and which by invoking Christ scourges and sears our secret enemy. (On watchfulness and holiness)

Unacceptable prayer

St Isaac the Syrian

  • If anyone does not recognize himself as a sinner, his prayer is not acceptable to God.

St John of Karpathos

  • If we truly wish to please God and to enjoy the grace of His friendship, we should present to Him an intellect that is tripped bare - not weighed down with anything that belongs to this present life, with any skill or notion or argument or excuse, however highly educated we may be in the wisdom of this world. God turns away from those who approach Him presumptuously, puffed up with self-esteem. People who suffer from futile conceit we rightly describe as bloated and puffed up (Texts for the monks in India)

Macarius of Optina

  • But see you pray humbly. If you should proudly think your prayers agreeable to the Lord and worthy of being answered, take it from me that it won't be heard (Letters) 

Difficulty of prayer

Abba Agathon

  • In order to pray a man must struggle to has last breath. If we do not find prayer difficult, perhaps it is because we have not really started to pray. (Saying of the desert fathers)

  • The brethren also asked Abba Agathon, "Amongst all good works, which is the virtue which requires the greatest effort?" He answered, "Forgive me, but I think there is no labor greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath. (Saying of the desert fathers)

'Good' actions instead of prayer

St John of Karpathos

  • The enemy knows that prayer is our invincible weapon against him, and so he tries to keep us from praying. He fills us with a desire for secular learning, and encourages us to spend our time on studies that we have already renounced. Let us resist his suggestions; otherwise, id we neglect our own fields and go wandering elsewhere, we shall harvest thorns and thistles instead of figs and grapes, 'For the wisdom of this world is folly in God's sight' (1 Cor 3:19) (Texts for the monks in India)

Perseverance

St Evagrios

  • Persevere with patience in your prayer ,and repulse the cares and doubts that arise within you. They disturb and trouble you, and so slacken the intensity of your prayer. (On prayer)

Desert period

Macarius of Optina

  • And do not let the dryness of your prayers depress you. Only the humble may safely be spared it. (Letters)

Forcing yourself to pray

St Macarius the Great

  • The man who desires to come to the Lord and to be found worthy of eternal life should force himself to every good work and to fulfilling all the commandments of the Lord because of sin that is present with him. One must force himself to prayer when he has not spiritual prayer; and thus God, beholding him thus striving and compelling himself by force, in spite of an unwilling heart, gives him the true prayer of the Spirit. (Homilies)

Honest prayer

St John Climacus

  • In your prayers there is no need for high-flown words, for it is the simple and unsophisticed babblings for children that have more often won the heart of the Father in heaven. (Ladder of divine ascent)

Stopping prayer

St Evagrios

  • There is too the case of that great monk, John the Small. He lived the hesychastic life in a pit, and his communion with God was not interrupted even when a demon in the form of a serpent wound itself round him, chewed his flesh and spat it our into his face (On prayer)

Abba Nilus of Sinai

  • In response to our abandoning our prayer rule, the Lord abandons our soul. (Saying of the desert fathers)

Times of prayer

St Clement of Alexandria

  • Now, if some assign definite hours for prayer—as, for example, the third, and sixth, and ninth—yet the Gnostic prays throughout his whole life, endeavouring by prayer to have fellowship with God

St Cyprian of Carthage

  • But for us, beloved brethren, besides the hours of prayer observed of old, both the times and the sacraments have now increased in number. For we must also pray in the morning, that the Lord’s resurrection may be celebrated by morning prayer. And this formerly the Holy Spirit pointed out in the Psalms, saying, “My King, and my God, because unto Thee will I cry; O Lord, in the morning shalt Thou hear my voice; in the morning will I stand before Thee, and will look up to Thee.” (Ps. v. 2). And again, the Lord speaks by the mouth of the prophet: “Early in the morning shall they watch for me, saying, Let us go, and return unto the Lord our God.” (Hos. vi. 1). Also at the sunsetting and at the decline of day, of necessity we must pray again. For since Christ is the true sun and the true day, as the worldly sun and worldly day depart, when we pray and ask that light may return to us again, we pray for the advent of Christ, which shall give us the grace of everlasting light. Moreover, the Holy Spirit in the Psalms manifests that Christ is called the day. “The stone,” says He, “which the builders rejected, is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; and it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us walk and rejoice in it.” (Ps. cxviii. 22). Also the prophet Malachi testifies that He is called the Sun, when he says, “But to you that fear the name of the Lord shall the Sun of righteousness arise, and there is healing in His wings.” (Mal. iv. 2). But if in the Holy Scriptures the true sun and the true day is Christ, there is no hour excepted for Christians wherein God ought not frequently and always to be worshipped; so that we who are in Christ—that is, in the true Sun and the true Day—should be instant throughout the entire day in petitions, and should pray; and when, by the law of the world, the revolving night, recurring in its alternate changes, succeeds, there can be no harm arising from the darkness of night to those who pray, because the children of light have the day even in the night. For when is he without light who has light in his heart? or when has not he the sun and the day, whose Sun and Day is Christ?

    Let not us, then, who are in Christ—that is, always in the light—cease from praying even during night. Thus the widow Anna, without intermission praying and watching, persevered in deserving well of God, as it is written in the Gospel: “She departed not,” it says, “from the temple, serving with fastings and prayers night and day.” (Luke ii. 37). Let the Gentiles look to this, who are not yet enlightened, or the Jews who have remained in darkness by having forsaken the light. Let us, beloved brethren, who are always in the light of the Lord, who remember and hold fast what by grace received we have begun to be, reckon night for day; let us believe that we always walk in the light, and let us not be hindered by the darkness which we have escaped. Let there be no failure of prayers in the hours of night—no idle and reckless waste of the occasions of prayer. New-created and newborn of the Spirit by the mercy of God, let us imitate what we shall one day be. Since in the kingdom we shall possess day alone, without intervention of night, let us so watch in the night as if in the daylight. Since we are to pray and give thanks to God for ever, let us not cease in this life also to pray and give thanks

St John Climacus

  • Get ready for your set time of prayer by unceasing prayer in your soul. (Ladder of divine ascent)

Praying Psalms

St Athanasius

  • In the Psalter you learn about yourself.  You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries.  Moreover, whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you do not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill. (Letters)

What to pray for

St Evagrios

  • Do not pray for the fulfilment of your wishes, for they may not accord with the will of God. But pray as you have been taught saying: Thy will be done in me … What is good, except God? Then let us leave to Him everything that concerns us and all will be well. For He who is good is naturally also a giver of good gifts. (On prayer)

  • In your prayer seek only righteousness and the kingdom of God, that is, virtue and spiritual knowledge; and everything else ‘will be given to you’ (Matt 6:33) (On prayer)

St John Cliamcus

  • The man who asks God for less then he deserves will certainly receive more, as is shown by the publican who begged forgiveness but obtained salvation (cf Luke 18:10-14). And the robber asked only to be remembered in the kingdom, yet he inherited all of Paradise (cf Luke 23:43). (Ladder of divine ascent)

St Macarius the great

  • ... alas for the soul that is unaware of its wounds and that in its endless sinfulness and obduracy does not think it has anything evil within it: the good doctor will not visit it or heal it, since it does not seek Him out or have any concern for its wounds, because it thinks it is well and in good health. As the Lord said: 'It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick' (Mt. 9:12). (Philokalia)

  • There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hand and say, "Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy." And if the conflict grows fiercer say, "Lord help!" God knows very well what we need and He shows us His mercy.

Prayer; denial of self

St Evagrios

  • If you wish to pray as you should, deny yourself all the time, and when any kind of affliction troubles you, mediate on prayer (On prayer)

St John Climacus

  • Rise from love of the world and love of pleasure. Put care aside, strip your mind, refuse your body. Prayer, after all, is a turning away from the world, visible and invisible. (Ladder of divine ascent)

Preparation for prayer

Theophan the Recluse

  • Although prayer is a habitual action for us, it needs preparation. For anyone who knows how to read and write, what is more usual than reading and writing? Yet if we sit down to read and write we do not do so suddenly, we first get ourselves into the mood for what we are going to do. This kind of preparation is all the more necessary before we start to pray, particularly if our occupation immediately beforehand was very different from prayer.

    So, morning or evening, immediately before you begin to repeat your prayers, stand awhile, sit for awhile, or walk a little and try to steady your mind and turn it away from all worldly activities and objects. After this, think who He is to whom you turn in prayer, then recollect who you are; who it is who is about to start this invocation to Him in prayer. Do this in such a way as to awake in your heart a feeling of humility and reverent awe that your are standing in the presence of God. It is the beginning of prayer, and a good beginning is half the complete task. (Pathway to Salvation)

Prayer through Christ

St Augustine

  • The result is that when we speak with God in prayer we do not separate the Son from him, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Saviour of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers.

    He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God… Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one man with himself, head and body. We pray then to him, through him, in him, and we speak along with him and he along with us. (We pray to Him and through Him)

Do not presume who God is

St Evagrios

  • When  you are praying, do not shape within yourself any image of the Deity, and do not let your intellect be stamped with the impress of any form; but approach the Immaterial in an immaterial manner, and then you will understand (On prayer)

Praying for others

St Cyprian of Carthage

  • Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love (Letter 56)

John of Kronstadt

  • "Pray for others as you would pray for yourself, for we are one, as the children of the Heavenly Father.

    When you pray, endeavour to pray more for others than for yourself alone, and during prayer represent vividly to yourself all men as forming one body with yourself, and each separately as a member of the Body of Christ and your own member, for we are members of one another. Pray for all as you would pray for yourself, with the same sincerity and fervour; look upon their infirmities and sicknesses as your own, their spiritual ignorance, their sins and lusts, as your own, their temptations and misfortunes and manifold afflictions as your own. Such prayer will be accepted with great favour by the Heavenly Father, the most gracious, common Father of all, whose boundless love embraces and preserves all creatures.” (My Life in Christ)

Paradise of the Holy Fathers

  • An old man used to say, “If thou hast prayed for thy companion thou hast also prayed for thyself, but if thou hast prayed for thyself only thou hast impoverished thy petition.

Asking people to pray for you

St Ignatius

  • And also pray for me, who have need of your love, along with the mercy of God, (Epistle to Trallians)

Praying for the dead

St Cyril of Jerusalem

  • Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition.  Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.

    And I wish to persuade you by an illustration.  For I know that many say, what is a soul profited, which departs from this world either with sins, or without sins, if it be commemorated in the prayer?  For if a king were to banish certain who had given him offence, and then those who belong to them 5should weave a crown and offer it to him on behalf of those under punishment, would he not grant a remission of their penalties?  In the same way we, when we offer to Him our supplications for those who have fallen asleep, though they be sinners, weave no crown, but offer up Christ sacrificed for our sins, propitiating our merciful God for them as well as for ourselves. (On the Mystery of the Body and Blood)

St John Chrysostom

  • “But I know not whither he has gone,” say you. Wherefore do you not know, tell me? For according as he lived well or otherwise, it is evident whither he will go. “Nay, on this very account I lament,” say you, “because he departed being a sinner. ” This is a mere pretext and excuse. For if this were the reason of your mourning for the departed, you ought to have formed and corrected him, when he was alive. The fact is thou dost every where look to what concerns yourself, not him.

    But grant that he departed with sin upon him, even on this account one ought to rejoice, that he was stopped short in his sins and added not to his iniquity; and help him as far as possible, not by tears, but by prayers and supplications and alms and offerings. For not unmeaningly have these things been devised, nor do we in vain make mention of the departed in the course of the divine mysteries, and approach God in their behalf, beseeching the Lamb Who is before us, Who takes away the sin of the world—not in vain, but that some refreshment may thereby ensue to them. Not in vain does he that stands by the altar cry out when the tremendous mysteries are celebrated, “For all that have fallen asleep in Christ, and for those who perform commemorations in their behalf. ” For if there were no commemorations for them, these things would not have been spoken: since our service is not a mere stage show, God forbid! Yea, it is by the ordinance of the Spirit that these things are done. (Homily on first Corinthians)

Thomas Hopko

  • My opinion, to sum it up, is that it is a very classical traditional Orthodox allegorical teaching that began to be too literally interpreted, and therefore got deviated in various ways, so that you get to the point where a guy like Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) just about denies the doctrine totally and claims that praying for the dead is just an act of love and whatever happens when you die, you die and that’s it.

    I honestly believe that is not the traditional teaching. The traditional teaching is that you have to enter into the presence of Christ and be purified and delivered and forgiven whatever sins you are hanging on to. The allegory is that these are named, the point being that the more we are purified before we die, the better off we are. When a person does die, we who are still alive on earth pray for them that they would be making it through, so to speak, that their death would be a purification from their sin, that they would accept the risen Christ and they would accept his grace and his forgiveness, and that they would enter into Paradise.

    I think it is very wrong, personally, to put some kind of time frame on this, or to think about it in terms of earth time, or to think about it in terms of earth/space. I don’t think it has anything at all to do with time or space. It is simply a spiritual, poetical, allegorical way of speaking about the last temptations that strike a person when they are passing through the process of dying. That is how I understand it. (Ancient Faith Radio)

Assessing your prayer

Macarius of Optina

  • Do not attempt to assess the quality of your prayer. God alone can judge its value. To us, our own prayer must always appear so poor an effort, so inadequate an achievement, that the cry of the publican spontaneously rises to our lips (Letters)