Let Us Fast in EarnestThus, let us begin on these fasting days to give ourselves to an intent study of fasting and prayer; and let us, at the same time, begin to fast and pray indeed.
” class=”tooltip”>Part 1/1: Let us Fast in Earnest
The Meaning and Significance of FastingFasting is a necessary means for success in the spiritual life and for attaining salvation; for fasting—depriving the flesh of excessive food and drink—weakens the force of sensual drives.” class=”tooltip”>Part 1/2: The Meaning and Significance of Fasting
Accustoming Ourselves to FastingTo make our disposition towards fasting firm, we have to accustom ourselves to fasting slowly, carefully, not all at once, but gradually—little by little.” class=”tooltip”>Part 1/3: Accustoming Ourselves to Fasting
Spiritual FastingLet the mind fast, not permitting empty and bad thoughts; let the heart fast, refraining from sinful feelings; let our will fast, directing all our desires and intentions to the one thing needful…” class=”tooltip”>Part 1/4: Spiritual Fasting
What is Prayer?A great prayerful power is at work in the prayers of the Holy Fathers, and whoever enters into them with all his attention and zeal will certainly taste of this prayerful power to the extent that his state of mind converges with the content of the prayer.” class=”tooltip”>Part 2/1: On Prayer. What is Prayer?
How to Prepare for Prayer?Thus, if you want to pray, gather all your thoughts, lay aside all external, earthly cares, and present your mind to God and gaze upon Him.”>Part 2/2: How to Prepare for Prayer?
Having fittingly prepared for On PrayerWhat should someone do who doesn’t know any prayers, but desires to pray, to save his soul?
“>prayer, a Christian arises for prayer with blessed hope: He lights a candle or lampada before the holy icons, guards himself with the Sign of the Cross, prostrates before God, and begins the usual prayer rule. In fulfilling his prayer rule, he should read without haste, penetrate into every word, bring the thought of every word into his heart, and accompany all of this with prostrations and the Sign of the Cross. This is the essence of a God-pleasing and fruitful Instructions to Nuns. Prayer RuleIn general, in the church of God one should preserve the utmost reverence and order, for the glory of God, as well as for one’s own soul’s profit and for the profit of those people present, who are to be instructed in reverence by the monastics. But lack of reverence disturbs them, scandalizes them and harms them.”>prayer rule.
Absorb every word of prayer, bringing the meaning of every word into your heart; that is, understand what you read and feel what you have understood. For example, you read: “Cleanse me from every impurity”—feel all your impurity, be contrite about it, desire purity, and entreat it of the Lord with complete hope. You read: “Thy will be done”—and in your heart, completely commit your fate to the Lord, with full readiness to good-naturedly meet everything the Lord sends you. You read: “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”—and in your soul forgive everyone everything, thereby entreating forgiveness for yourself from the Lord God.
If you do this with every verse of your prayer, that will be a proper prayer rule. And in order to fulfill it more successfully this way, you need to: a) have a well-known prayer rule, not large, so that with your usual affairs, you can fulfill it unhurriedly; b) attentively read and ponder the prayers of your rule in your free time, understand and feel every word of prayer, to know in advance what should be in your heart and soul with every word, so it would be easy for you to understand and feel what you’re reading during your prayer rule.
If during prayer your thoughts fly off to other topics, strain to keep your attention and return your thought to the subject of prayer; and again it flies off—again bring it back. Repeat the reading until every word of the prayer is read with understanding and feeling. This will help you wean your mind from distractedness in prayer. But St. Basil the Great—“Universal Teacher”Hierarch Basil the Great is one of the Church’s most remarkable theologians. His influence on the fortunes of the Church spread far beyond the borders of his homeland and is still felt in our days.
“>St. Basil the Great asks: “How can we achieve non-distraction in prayer?” And he answers: “Being undoubtedly convinced that God is before your eyes. One who prays with this conviction will have a mind that does not stray from the One Who tests the heart and reins… For this, one must not allow the soul to be idle from contemplation of God and His works and gifts, as well as from confession and gratitude for everything.”
And if some word of prayer has a strong effect on your soul, you need to pause on it, not proceeding further. Remain on this spot with attention and feeling, nourish your soul with it, or with the thoughts that it produces. Don’t disrupt this state until it passes on its own. That means the spirit of prayer begins to take root in the heart of the one who prays this way; and this state is the most reliable means of nurturing and strengthening the spirit of prayer in us.
To be continued…