Friday, March 6, 2015

Calling on God Throughout the Day ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )

Saint Theophan the Recluse gives us clear advice on Prayer in his four homilies on prayer. He encourages us to work hard at our prayer because its rewards are great. I like him particularly because he is not writing to monastics, but to us working folks. Yet, he holds for us the highest aims in our spiritual life. He talks about two kinds of prayer. The first is where we begin - our morning and evening prayers. Next, we need to reach out to call on God throughout the day. He sees this as two logical steps in the development of our life of prayer.

Saint Theophan writes:
Do not think that we are talking about something very lofty which is an unattainable state for living people. No. It truly is a lofty state, but attainable by all...

The work of prayer consists of a proper completion of the two types of prayer
...pious, attentive, and feeling completion of our usual prayers, and then of the soul to frequently ascend to God through divine contemplation, turning of all things to the glory of God, and frequent crying to God from the heart.

We pray in the morning and the evening: there is a great distance between them. If we only turn to God at these times, then even if we pray whole-heartedly, during the day or night, everything will fall apart, and when it is time again to pray, the soul will feel cold and empty, as before. One can pray again whole-heartedly, but if you become cold and fall apart again, what use is it? This is just building and destroying, building and destroying; it is only labor.

If now we resolve not only to pray with attention and feeling in the morning and the evening, but also to spend every day in contemplation of God, doing all things to the glory of God, and frequently calling to God from our hearts with short words of prayer, then this long period between morning and evening prayers and from evening to morning prayers will be filled with frequent turnings to God and pure prayerful actions.

Although this prayer is not yet unceasing, it is still prayer repeated very frequently, and the more often it is repeated, the closer it comes to being constant. All of this work is towards this final and necessary goal....

From frequent calling out to God, or from frequent pious movements toward God in our hearts we will constantly call upon the name of God with warmth and love. When these three things: the fear of God, the remembrance of God, or walking before God, and this turning of the heart toward God with love (loving repetition of the sweet name of the Lord in the heart) then certainly the spiritual fire of which I spoke earlier will catch in the heart, and it will bring with it profound peace, constant sobriety, and living boldness. At that point, a man enters into that state where he needs no longer to desire anything greater or unnecessary on earth, and which is truly the beginning of the blessed state which awaits all in the future.

Saint Theophan the Recluse