22. Inner prayer

When we think of prayer, is it only about satisfying our desires? How then, should we really pray to God?

Dear beloved,

The pilgrim attended a Divine Liturgy in church, and got acquainted with a nobleman. Both of them decided to travel together to visit the Slovetsky Monastery and pray there.

The pilgrim noticed that the nobleman was always reading the Holy Bible and asked him which scriptural texts inspired him the most. The nobleman then explained that he read the entire New Testament from beginning to end. The pilgrim asked the nobleman how best to read the Holy Bible to pray better.

The nobleman told the pilgrim to read Gospel of Saint Matthew, on how to prepare for prayer, intended for beginners, such that one should never pray from vanity; and to pray in a quiet place away from noise (Philippians 4:6-7). One should pray only for the Lord’s forgiveness of one’s sins and to walk closer to God, and not to petition for things or needs like pagans (St Matthew 6:5-8).

Then one should understand what prayerful words are, such that one must first forgive others truly, before we dare to approach God for His forgiveness of our own sins. We should also understand that pray is about consistency and steadfast effort with much hope, and not expect God to be a tap that we turn on anytime we want for our needs, or expect God to be an instant fast food delivery. God has His own will and reasons, a mystery we will never understand (St Matthew 6:9-13, 7:7-12, St Mark 14:32-40, St Luke 11:5-14 and 18:3-7).

The nobleman explained that the Gospel of Saint John contained much of the mysteries of the prayer of the heart. We are reminded of the conversation between Jesus Christ and the Samaritan lady, where we learned that the inner worship of God must be centered in truth, and complete in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18, Hebrews 1:20-21, and Romans 8:26), because that is what God desires of us. In the same Gospel, we learned that true unceasing prayer must be like an ever-flowing stream of water, much like everlasting life (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The Gospel of Saint John also described that state of inner prayer as one that has an eternal remembrance of God (St John 4:5-16, 15:4-8).

We are told that whatever we ask of God in the name of our beloved Lord and Christ, God will give us (St John 16:23-25). But does Christ mean for us to ask God for favors, gifts, and things we selfishly lust after?

All too often, many failed to understand the nature of prayer, and instead, made endless petitions to God, hoping to be satiated of their desires and lusts. God certainly has limitless power to fulfill anything, but He fulfills prayers that will draw us closer to Him. Many people seem to remember God, and render a cavalier “thanks” to God, when they experienced some good blessings. But do we remember God in every breath, every step, every action, and every consequence in our lives? In the good, and the very bad, do we think of God, and thank Him for Divine providence that leads us to Him, and not merely expecting to be spoon fed with miracles, wonders, gifts, and showers of gold?

Do we remember to pray for the needs of others (1 Timothy 2:1-5), as we often ask our Most Holy Theotokos, the Archangels, the blessed saints, to pray for us as well?

Let us pray, thinking of the specific needs of people around us, for Divine will and mercy to embrace us, with the aching heart of a loving brother or sister:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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