Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Power of a Prayer Habit ( St. Theophan the Recluse )

Much of what we do in life is done by habit. This is necessary because we otherwise would be flooded with decisions, overloading our neural circuits. As you examine your life you will find that are routines that you automatically go through during the day and in differing circumstances. Once established, habits are hard to break and it is difficult to introduce new habits.

Daily prayer is a habit that can help us in the darkest of times. But, first, you must have a daily prayer habit. Morning prayer (evening too) needs to become as automatic as brushing your teeth. This means that when you awake in the morning you must develop a routine that includes prayer. For me, I get up, take a shower, get dressed and then go automatically to my set prayer place. I have a rule of prayer I always follow. I do this every morning. No matter what is happening in my life, my morning begins with prayer because I have established this habit. There is no choice to make. It is a habit.

What happens when I am faced with a stressful situation or a feeling of depression? I have my prayer habit that saves me. No matter how I am feeling, I always begin my day with prayer out of habit and in prayer I seek help from God. It is prayer that lifts us above all our earthly concerns, even the darkest depression. God is always available to anyone who knows the power of daily pray.

In addition there is another habit that can come from this daily prayer habit, this is the Jesus Prayer. Because part of my daily prayer routine is to say the Jesus prayer again and again, I have another habit which guides me no matter where I am or what time it is. The Jesus prayer is always at the front of my mind because I repeat it so many times each morning. Then, when I am in need of help, it is there and I am able to pray using this short prayer at any moment.

The point I want to make is that the right kind of habits are extremely helpful in our spiritual journey. The Church puts great emphasis on habit and routine. Our daily services are routine, and repetitive. We are asked to make a habit of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. We know every Sunday there is a Divine Liturgy at a certain time in a certain place. The Liturgy is basically the same each Sunday and within it there are numerous repetitive prayers. We eventually over time learn them and they become part of us and also available to us wherever we are.

You cannot wait until you are in great distress and then expect to be able to pray. But with good habits of prayer you are able to seek God's help when you need it most.

Work with your Spiritual Father to guide you in creating a daily prayer habit.

Thought from Saint Theophan the Recluse:
All those who work on themselves must have as their aim to be attentive and vigilant and to walk in the presence of God. If God grants it, a soreness will appear in your heart; then what you desire, or even something higher still, will come of itself. A certain rhythm will set itself in motion, in virtue of which everything will progress upright, coherently and in the proper way, without your thinking about it. The you will carry a Teacher within you, wiser far than any earthly teacher. (Art of Prayer, p 170) 


What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home.... ( St. Porphyrios )

What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home. The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relation to their children through their mildness, patience and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children. Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behaviour of the children. And their behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness. 

If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don't engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the par­ents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, har­mony and understanding between the parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.

The behaviour of the children is directly related to the state of the parents. When the children are hurt by the bad behaviour of the parents towards each other, they lose the strength and desire to progress in their lives. Their lives are constructed shoddily and the edifice of their soul is in constant danger of collapsing. Let me give you two examples.

Two sisters came to see me. One of them had gone through some very distressing experiences and they asked me what was the cause of these. I answered them:
'It's because of your home; it stems from your parents.' And as I looked at the girl I said:

'These are things you've inherited from your mother.'

'But,' she said,' my parents are such perfect people. They're Chris­tians, they go to confession, they receive Holy Communion and we had a re­ligious upbringing. Unless it is religion that is to blame...'

I said to them:

'I don't believe a word of all that you're telling me. I see one tiling only, and that is that your parents don't live with the joy of Christ.'

On hearing this, the other girl said:

'Listen, Maria, the Father's quite right. Our parents go to confession and receive Holy Communion, but did we ever have any peace at home. Our father was constantly complaining about our mother. And every day either the one refused to sit at the table or the other refused to go out somewhere together. So you see what the Father is saying is true.

'What's your father's name?' I asked her,

She told me.

'What's your mother's name?'

She told me.

'Well,' I said,' the feelings you've got inside you towards your moth­er are not at all good.'

You see, the moment she told me her father's name I saw his soul, and the moment she told me her mother's name, I saw her mother and I saw the way her daughter looked at her.

Another day a mother came to visit me with one of her daughters. She was very distressed and broke down in tears.

'What's the matter?' I asked.

'I'm in total despair over my older daughter. She threw her husband out the house and deceived us all with a pack of lies.'

'What kind of lies?' I inquired.

'She threw her husband out the house ages ago and she didn't tell us anything. We would ask on the phone, "How's Stelios doing?', and she would reply, "Oh, he's fine. He's just gone out to buy a newspaper." Each time she would think up some new excuse so that we wouldn't suspect anything. And this went on for two whole years. A few days ago we learned the truth from Stelios himself when we bumped into him by chance.'

So I said to her:

'The fault's your own. It's you that's to blame, you and your husband, but you most of all.'

'What do you mean!' she said indignantly. 'I loved my children to the point that I was never out of the kitchen. I had no life of my own at all. I took them to the church and I was always telling them the right thing to do. How can you say that I'm to blame?'

I turned to her other daughter who was with her and asked:

'What do you think about the matter?'

'The Father's right, Mum,' she said. 'We never ever enjoyed a single day when you weren't quarrelling with Dad.'

'Do you see then, how I'm right? It is you that are to blame. You traumatised the children. They are not to blame, but they are suffering the consequences.'

Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, 195-205.

The Foolishness of Atheism ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )

"The fool hath said in his heart, 'There is no God'. They are corrupt. They have done abominable works" (Psalm 14:1).

The mind is the rudder of man's entire being. It counsels, persuades and guides. Both the soul and the body act according to the mind. If the mind is upright before God, then the whole man is upright. If the mind is iniquitous before God, the whole man is iniquitous. Even if someone merely thinks, "There is no God," the thought immediately manifests itself in his deeds. Evil thoughts come first and evil deeds inevitably follow.

Do you see how well the inspired prophet knows the nature of man? First, he underlines the cause, then he cites the consequences. Evil deeds necessarily proceed from evil thoughts. That is why, brethren, you should not believe those who say: "I do not believe in God, but I do good deeds." First of all, he who does not believe in God does not know what good is, nor can he differentiate good from evil. By his disbelief, a man cuts himself off from the greatest Good and the Source of every good!

Furthermore, let us carefully study this: you will see that all the deeds of the ungodly are corrupt and hateful. They are corrupt because they are evil, worthless and transitory; they are hateful, because they are contrary to the will of the Living God. The godless cannot distinguish good from evil, for only in the light of God's law can one determine precisely what is good and what is evil.

However, it can also be that those who merely say they believe in God do corrupt and hateful deeds, acknowledging God with their lips but denying Him in deeds. It is good to confess God with your lips, but that is a long way from being enough! One must also acknowledge Him with the heart, and confirm one's faith by good deeds. Even so, it does happen that a man believes in his heart, and confesses with his lips, and still sins. This happens either from the weakness of the will or from the devil's arrows. Let such a one repent, and he will be forgiven immediately.

Repentance is salvific even for the godless; how much more so for a believer? As long as a man is on earth, he has a chance for repentance. But who can be certain that his time will extend beyond this night? Hence, delaying repentance is utter foolishness.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich