On prayer and emotion

When reading prayers, we should try to feel the words of prayer as if they were our own. This way we assimilate the prayerful spirit of the prayer's authors. We can then keep those positive feelings long after we finished reading the words of prayers. The feelings become a support in our struggles throughout the day.
admin | 27 September 2008

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The holy fathers speak of feeling the words of prayer. Prayer without feeling is dead. The church uses prayers which were composed by church writers who wrote prayers from the feeling of their hearts. Prayer is a routine exercise of enlivening the whole person.

Saint Theophan the Recluse wrote in his 1st Homily on Prayer: “Prayer itself is the piercing of our hearts by pious feelings towards God, one after another – feelings of humility, submission, gratitude, doxology, forgiveness, heart-felt prostration, brokenness, conformity to the will of God, etc. All of our effort should be directed so that during our prayers, these feelings and feelings like them should fill our souls, so that the heart would not be empty when the lips are reading the prayers, or when the ears hear and the body bows in prostrations, but that there would be some qualitative feeling, some striving toward God. When these feelings are present, our praying is prayer, and when they are absent, it is not yet prayer.”

When reading prayers, we should try to feel the words of prayer as if they were our own. This way we assimilate the prayerful spirit of the prayer’s authors. We can then keep those positive feelings long after we finished reading the words of prayers. The feelings become a support in our struggles throughout the day.

Focus on and attention to the prayer, as well as regular sessions of prayer, are necessary for cultivating emotions corresponding to the words of the prayer. We are not only thinking beings, but feeling/emotive beings as well. Distracted or half-hearted prayer is prayer without the mind or the heart (emotions). It takes time to get use to a routine of prayer, and deep inspired prayer can not come without consistent practice of a prayer routine through emotional dry spells or difficult times. Making domestic and church prayer a habit provides a “time out”, some sort of familiar recharging time when life throws us hardship.

And so, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us make prayer a regular habit, in church and at home. We need the inspired words and feelings of prayer every day in order to grow in the spirit of prayer. Life will throw us suffering, and so we must fortify ourselves beforehand by strengthening our inner person with prayer.

Amen.

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