The Elder Sophrony on the Struggle of Prayer

Southwest Trip 164Prayer is infinite creation, the supreme art. Over and over again we experience an eager upsurge towards God, followed only by a falling away from His light. Time and again we are conscious of the mind’s inability to rise to Him. There are moments when we feel ourselves on the verge of insanity. ‘Thou didst give me Thy precept to love but there is no strength in me for love. Come and perform in me all that Thou hast commanded, for Thy commandment overtaxes my powers. My mind is too frail to comprehend Thee. My spirit cannot see into the mysteries of Thy will. My days pass in endless conflict. I am tortured by the fear of losing Thee because of the evil thoughts in my heart.’

Sometimes prayer seems to flag and we cry, ‘Make haste unto me, O God’ (Psalm 70:5). But if we do not let go of the hem of His garment, help will come. It is vital to dwell in prayer in order to counteract the persistently destructive influence of the outside world.

Prayer cannot fail to revive in us the divine breath which God breathed into Adam’s nostrils and by virtue of which Adam ‘became a living soul’ (Gen. 2:7). Then our regenerated spirit will marvel at the sublime mystery of being, and our hearts echo the Psalmist’s praise of the wonderful works of the Lord. We shall apprehend the meaning of Christ’s words, ‘I am come that [men] might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’ (John 10:10).

From His Life is Mine by the Elder Sophrony

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.





8 responses to “The Elder Sophrony on the Struggle of Prayer”

  1. Rachael Avatar

    Thank you for this, Father, very much.

  2. deb Avatar

    “Thy commandment overtaxes my powers. . . . I am tortured by the fear of losing Thee because of the evil thoughts in my heart.”

    Oh my goodness. Thank you, Father, for letting us know such a prayer has been published, and not only that, it was uttered by such a holy man. I need not only this, but also to learn the prayers for when I’m far gone enough that the fear of losing Christ doesn’t even torture my mind that much. Know what I mean? When I know I should be plenty concerned about my love of distractions and boredom with prayer, but it’s not really bothering me that much.

  3. Marsha Avatar

    what a wonderful, and timely prayer. Thank you!

  4. ryan Avatar

    Thank you, Father! This one is a keeper.

  5. Dusty Henry Avatar
    Dusty Henry

    Just what I needed. It’s exactly the way I have been feeling for the last few weeks. What a great comfort to know that others go through this too. I have been asking why prayer is such a struggle. How can something so simple to do be so hard?

    It ought to be an easy task to simply sit down and spent a half hour praying. Yet it seems so hard to do. Even when all you really have to do is read from a prayer book with attentiveness. It seems that unseen forces are arrayed against us.

  6. mike Avatar

    ….”Time and again we are conscious of the mind’s inability to rise to Him”… true……for me communion comes in a silent contemplative state apart from the mind in a manner of speaking and its in the stillness that i know im connecting with Him…no words necessary…

  7. Darlene Avatar

    “Over and over again we experience an eager upsurge towards God, followed only by a falling away from His light.”

    Yes, this describes my struggle. There are times when I feel I could just fall into the arms of Jesus and be taken away in flight to another existence, far away from the depravity that seems to lurk everywhere, even within myself.

    Last night, I watched a show on t.v. that I have come to enjoy immensely. My husband made some remarks as to why he thought such a show is not edifying. I tried to defend my actions, (i.e., the acting is excellent, the setting one of my favorites, etc.) but in the end, I could not justify watching this program. Near the end of the show, a few of the characters commit grievous sin. I resolved then and there never to watch this show again. I went and told my husband of my decision and that he was right in his assessment.

    How more valuable my time would have been spent praying, or reading the Scriptures, or writing to a friend. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:15, 16.

    Thanks you, Father Stephen, for this post.

    In Christ’s Immeasurable Love,


  8. George Patsourakos Avatar

    I find this prayer to be an inspiring wakeup call not to give up praying because we think our sins are insurmountable, and to be a reminder that God is always with us and will forgive us if we repent, regardless of how many sins we may have committed.

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