“It is noteworthy that Jesus chose to perform many of His miracles on Saturday, which was then the day set aside as a day of rest, and for contemplation of God. When Jesus was condemned for repeatedly healing on this day, He made it clear that God’s day was not to be wasted in idleness, but used for active celebrating by gathering to pray, doing good deeds, and for strengthening our souls. Sunday, the day of the resurrection, is not a day to spend sitting around the home mesmerized in front of the television or for going shopping; it is the day to go to church, to pray, and to reinvigorate our lives. Sunday is intended to be an active commemoration of the Lord.”
-Bishop of Boston Mitrophan
“I consider no other labor as difficult as prayer. When we are ready to pray, our spiritual enemies interfere. They understand it is only by making it difficult for us to pray that they can harm us. Other things will meet with success if we keep at it, but laboring at prayer is a war that will continue until we die.”
When I was “newly illumined” in the Orthodox faith, my spiritual father recommended the books on prayer by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. One thing I got from Metropolitan Anthony was the blunt truth that praying is uncomfortable, even scary, but it’s the source of our true life. It’s what we were made for. No matter how many times I read transcriptions of his talks — I think all the books we have by him are actually from homilies or lectures — I am always, always struck by the way he conveys the deep love of God with honesty and simplicity.
Today is the anniversary of his repose in 2003, his falling asleep in Christ and passing from death to life, and in his memory I am offering an excerpt from one of those books:
“Because we don’t know yet how to act without an outer reason, we discover that we don’t know what to do with ourselves, and then we begin to be increasingly bored. So first of all, you must learn to sit with yourselves and face boredom, drawing all the possible conclusions.”
― Beginning to Pray
This morning I woke in the northwoods of Idaho, at the home of my goddaughter Rosemary and her husband. I sat on their deck and watched the green aspen leaves as they quietly fluttered and twirled against patches of blue sky background above.
Unfamiliar birds squawked and twittered in the neighborhood, glorifying God. And I found this prayer in my prayer book, that asks God to teach us to use our voices to pray as well. The prayer itself is good instruction.
“My Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou alone knowest my need. Thou lovest me more than I know to love Thee. Father, I am thy servant: grant me all I dare not ask. I ask neither for a cross nor for comfort; I simply stand in thy presence. My heart is open to thee. Thou seest my needs, of which I myself am unaware. Look upon me and act toward me in accordance with thy mercy: smite and heal, cast down and raise up. In thy presence I stand, reverent and silent before thy holy will and thy judgments, to which I cannot attain. To thee I offer myself in sacrifice. I commend myself to thee. I have no desire except to fulfill thy will. Teach me to pray. Do thou thyself pray within me. Amen.”
-St. Philaret of Moscow