Summary of Veronica’s Commentary:
The second building block in our cooperation with God in our regeneration by grace is PRAYER. Cooperation implies communication, respect, intimacy and love. All of these need to present when we pray. The Orthodox Church has given us a starting structure for our prayer life:
- Maintain a personal prayer and fasting rule that you strive to practice everyday, which grows and deepens as we mature in our faith
- Attend church regularly, receiving confession and communion, including on feasts of the Church, during Great Lent and other fasting periods
- Read the daily gospel and epistle readings appointed by the Church calendar, as well as the lives of the some of saints for each day.
Orthodox Christianity is not a stagnant religion. Once one has integrated and is practicing a basic prayer rule, we strive to not sit on our laurels, but deepen and increase our time in prayer slowly and gradually over time.
As Christians we must constantly do battle with our fallen nature. When temptations arise, rejoice! Seek relief in prayer with God. It is through those temptations that we learn our only true comfort rests in our Lord.
When we fall into doubt, worries or fears, know that God has not stepped away from us. Let us strive to question ourselves, especially now during Lent. Perhaps we have become complacent in our prayer rule and or have unknowingly started relying on ourselves again?
It is so easy for us to become distracted or take God for granted when we get busy or worried. Then we unknowingly start to slip and fall into old habits and states of sin. Hours or days later, when the pain of our fall becomes unbearable, then perhaps we realize we have stepped away from God or need God to help us start over again.
To correct our behavior, God essentially narrows our focus. It is through our temptations and sufferings that God strives to wake us up to our state of sin. We are all so accustomed to avoiding and mitigating our suffering through temporary fixes, which fasting removes or lessens, which ultimately will not help us, but prolongs our suffering.
Personal prayer is one of the means God gave us to help us to restore and continually renew our connection with Him. When we humbly put ourselves before God again in prayer, we heal. Therefore, arm your self with prayer!
We also need a right attitude towards prayer, which Elder Prophyrios will help us to clarify:
Wounded by love, the Life and the Wisdom of Elder Prophyrios
“One thing is our aim–love for Christ, for the church, for our neighbor. Love, worship of, and craving for God, the union with Christ and with the church are paradise on earth.
Let us love Christ and let our only hope and care be for him.
But are we inflamed by love for Christ? Do we run into the Beloved when we are exhausted to find rest in prayer or do we do it as a burdensome duty and say, ‘ Now I have to do my prayers and prostrations’…? Divine eros is what’s missing. Prayer of this kind could even be harmful.
Pray to God with fervor and love in a calm state of mind, with meekness and gentleness, without forcing yourself.
The object is not to sit and afflict and constrict yourself in order to improve. The object is to live, to study, to pray and to advance in love–in love for Christ and for the church. Don’t say ‘I’ll force myself and now I’ll pray to acquire love and become good’.”
Christ stands outside the door of our soul and knocks for us to open to Him, but He doesn’t enter. He doesn’t want to violate the freedom, which He Himself gave us…. Christ is courteous. He stands outside the door of our soul and knocks gently. If we open to Him, He will enter us and give us everything–Himself–secretly and silently.
We will not be able to know Christ unless He knows us… Nor can we love Him unless He loves us. Christ will not love us if we are not worthy for Him to love us. In order for Him to love us, he must discover something special in us. You may desire, demand, struggle and entreat, but you receive nothing. You prepare yourself to acquire those things, which Christ desires in order for divine grace to enter you, but it cannot enter when that special ingredient you require is lacking. What is that? It is humility. Without humility, we cannot love Christ… humility and selflessness in worship of God… ‘Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing’. (Matt 6:3)
No one must see you; no one must understand the motions of your worship towards the Divinity. All these things must be hidden and secret, as with the hermits.”
May God bless your prayers and Lenten Journey!