Recently, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine said interesting words in one of his sermons. They were about the world trying to enthral a person’s prayer and dissolve his union with God.
Indeed, the vanity of this vale of life is trying to overwhelm a person and drown him, as the raging sea did with the Apostle Peter trying to walk on water to Christ. The main thing here is not to lose the course and keep the direction of the soul towards God. He is always ready to help.
Satisfying our passions in this chase of material values, effeminacy and comfort, we lose the most important thing – our union with God, a dialogue with the living God, which is the “one thing needed”, as the Church Fathers often say repeating the Gospel words.
This becomes especially evident in the example of a Christian’s attitude to morning and evening prayer rules.
Oh, how very often we do not have any desire to read them! And among the many available excuses are: “I’m very tired”, “I want to watch my favourite TV series”, “I need to spend time on social networks”, “I have to chat with my family, friends or relatives”, ” I need to work until late at night”, and so on and so on.
But let us be honest with ourselves and, with God’s help, look below the surface in this issue. The vanity of earthly life has not only bodily or material properties. Like an octopus, it penetrates our minds, souls and hearts, poisoning them. The need to be in this bustle for many hours every day becomes a kind of an addiction, that we can no longer live without. Roughly speaking, a person may be sitting still, but there is no peace in his soul. His hands and knees are already “dancing”, trying to run and dive into this commotion. Why is alcoholism so common? It is because of its “switching” action rapidly inhibiting the mind. How often do we hear phrases like “I drink to relax” or “I can’t relax any other way” from an alcoholic? Indeed, this continuous run through the vale of earthly life with its external and internal vanity is difficult for our psyche to withstand. It results in constant stress and constant nervous tension.
But there is a much better and safer way out, the way of prayer. From the analogy with the alcoholics’, our motto could be “I pray to relax”. However, people pray much less than they drink. Why? Because in drunkenness, you do not need to make any initial effort whereas in prayer that effort is absolutely necessary. What exactly is that effort?
Making a start of a prayer rule is a rather painful process. One needs to break out of this endless circle, as if he was pulling a leg out of a swamp. More precisely, it is not a single leg, but the whole body. God knows how painful and hard it is! It’s like some kind of a surgical operation amputating you from the world. Your body parts creak and groan like tackle on an old wooden sailboat. Many parts of you resist prayer. And you’re so tired… Ever so tired! But if you do not give up and continue with the prayer rule, then a miracle happens. It often happens quite unexpectedly and may be a total surprise for you. Suddenly you feel as if the sun peeked out through impenetrable leaden clouds. You feel a whole different world. It may seem to you that you have been saying the prayer absentmindedly, without due attention, but suddenly one single word opens the door to God for you. Letting you approach Him, He Himself enters your dwelling. Everything in you suddenly becomes cleansed, even and “unravelled”. And then the light comes making it feel as if one person stood up for prayer, and a completely different person finished it.
That is the healing and purifying spiritual effect of the prayer rule! After all, our main task on this earth is to learn to talk with the living God. Everything else is just water running away through a leaky sieve, or sand flowing through our fingers.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds