Saturday, November 16, 2013

How we should pray

When praying, it is important to turn away from our usual cares and preoccupations, collect our scattered thoughts, as if closing the door of the soul against all that is worldly, and direct all our attention towards God.

Placing oneself before the face of God and bringing to mind His greatness, one who prays must necessarily recognize his unworthiness and spiritual poverty. "While praying one should imagine all creation as nothing compared to God, and only God as everything" (St. John of Kronstadt). An edifying example of the proper attitude of prayer was given by our Savior in the parable regarding the publican who was justified by God for his humility (Luke 18:9-14).

Christian humility does not cause depression or hopelessness. On the contrary, it is linked with firm faith in the goodness and omnipotence of the Heavenly Father. Only prayer of faith is accepted by God, as we read in the Gospel: "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). Warmed by faith, a Christian's prayer is very powerful. The Christian remembers the command of Jesus Christ that it is necessary to pray always and not lose heart (Luke 18:1), and His promise: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7).

The Gospel has many examples of the great power of prayer: the Canaanite woman who begged the Lord to heal her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28), the defenseless widow who persuaded the unjust judge to take her side (Luke 18:5-8 and others). One should not despair if his prayer is not answered immediately: this is a test, not a refusal. "This is why the Lord said `knock,' to show that if He does not open the doors of His mercy immediately, we should nevertheless remain waiting with the light of hope" (St. John Chrysostom). The true Christian will continue his prayer with uninterrupted effort until he convinces the Lord, and until he calls down upon himself His mercy, like the Old Testament patriarch Jacob who said to the stranger wrestling with him, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" (Gen. 32:26) and indeed he received God's blessing.

Because the Lord is our Heavenly Father, we are all brothers. He will answer our prayer only when we have a true, brotherly, benevolent relationship with each other, when we have vanquished all strife and enmity and have shrouded all offenses with forgiveness and made peace with everyone. "Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25).

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