True Prayer

True Prayer uniting us with the Most-High is nothing other than light and strength coming down to us from heaven. In its essence it transcends our plane of existence. This world contains no source of energy for prayer. If I eat well so that my body may be strong, my flesh will rebel against prayer. If I mortify the flesh by excessive fasting, for a while sbstinence favors prayer but soon the body grows faint and refuses to follow the spirit. If I associate with good people, I may find moral satisfaction and acquire new psychological or intellectual experience but only very rarely will I be stimulated to prayer in depth. If I have a talent for science or the arts, my success will give rise to vanity and I shall not be able to find the deep heart, the place of spiritual prayer. If I am materially well-off and busy wielding the power associated with riches or with satisfying my aesthetic or intellectual desires, my soul does not rise up to God as we know Him through Christ. If I renounce all that I have and go into the desert, even there the opposition of the cosmic energies will paralyse my prayer. And so on, ad infinitum.

Elder Sophrony in On Prayer.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





12 responses to “True Prayer”

  1. Seraphim Avatar

    “This world contains no source of energy for prayer. ”

    This is great! It really speaks to the profundity of prayer, something the world makes fun of and I often have a hard time relating.

    Last summer I took my first biology lecture/ lab in over 10 years, and was struck by the concept of the energy from the sun cycling through the biosphere, through plants and then animals, a little bit being lost to the air at each step, until it ultimately radiates away. The truth that prayer does not originate from this model blows my mind, encouraging me to delve deeper into the “other side” through prayer.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. C L Avatar
    C L

    I think that we all have a “thorn in the flesh” when it comes to prayer, and perhaps that is why we are told that “the prayers of a righteous man availeth much. Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen

  3. Robert Avatar

    This so well describes my experience with prayer. When fasting, I enjoy deep and long prayers. However, the inevitable “coming down the mountain top” always seems to rear its ugly head. And for good reasons, such as work or spending time with family and friends. Abiding in the valley I long for the mountain top, which is remote and inaccessible making God appear as such as well. This of course is not good.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    I am far from an expert on prayer – I only know a few things. But I do know that the life we take on as married people, necessarily involves our families and that spending time with my children – particularly when I am giving myself to them in love – spending time with my wife in the same manner – is pleasing to God. Marriage is a sacrament and thus as sure a means of grace as is prayer, etc. We should, if I may be so bold, unite our mind in our heart in our marriage. It is very easy to be married without attention, just as it is easy to pray without attention. But marriage with careful attention will save us. It is a gift of God.

    One day, not long after I had been Orthodox (maybe a year or so), my wife came into the kitchen where I was doing something or other. I turned to her, and the habits of the altar just took over. Without thinking what I was doing I bowed to her and crossed myself. She laughed, and I laughed. But later on reflection I thought I might have done a very correct thing. I should always hold my wife in veneration, and my children, as well as my congregation. A priest bows to the congregation in Orthodoxy, before taking his communion and says, “Forgive me.” It is something that is done several times in the course of a liturgy and extremely important. Never place prayer as higher than your family. They are not, or should not be in competition.

  5. anymouse Avatar

    How is it not nihilistic?

    I like your ruminations, Fr. Stephen, thank you.

  6. Rebecca Avatar

    Thank you Father for your comment above regarding prayer and our marriage and family. It is something I needed to hear, especially with an active 2 year old. 🙂

  7. Robert Avatar

    I find it hard to reconcile the two, and often feel like I am not doing justice to either. This is frustrating. But I believe in the one storey universe, so I know it all works out for good. As the “priest of the family” I feel the need to improve, to press in. My personal spiritual well being has a direct impact on my family’s. I am thankful for the Church leading the way, such hope she provides. Thank you Holy Spirit.

  8. Wei-Hsien Wan Avatar

    Father, bless.

    Thanks for posting this quotation, as well as for sharing your kitchen anecdote! “Never place prayer as higher than your family. They are not, or should not be in competition.” These words will give me something to think about as I navigate living as the only Christian in my household. Thanks.

  9. LocquaciousLogician Avatar

    I believe that most Americans, including myself, have acquired such an insatiable craving for seasoned food & constant entertainment that bringing the mind into a state of prayer on a regular basis becomes quite difficult. Such pampering makes even the lightest burdens unbearable.

  10. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The few times I have begun to approach prayer it is not a mystical sweetness that I have experienced, but pain–pain for my own sins for the suffering of others. I have yet to embrace that pain in the faith that Christ has my back so to speak. I run from it.

  11. Mary Avatar

    Thank you, Father, for the words regarding marriage. I needed to hear that. My husband did not convert with me, and I constantly struggle with how much time I should spend in front of my Icons in prayer when he’s home. Now I realize that spending time with him is just as important as prayer, if my heart is right. Glory to God.

  12. Cameron Avatar

    Elder Sophrony’s words about the arts stood out to me. I spend a lot of my time thinking about and pursuing such things, and I know the vanity that so often comes with even the smallest successes. Father, what do you suppose an artist can do to both create exceptional work (knowing such abilities are a gift of God) and also reach “the deep heart” in prayer?

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