As I recently spoke to a church group on the topic of prayer, I thought I’d share some highlights here:
* Prayer is “raising up the heart and mind to God” - St. John of Damascus
* Prayer is an encounter and a relationship - by nature, a relationship implies mutual freedom. Archbishop Anthony Bloom’s book, Beginning to Pray, was most valuable in sharing why it is that we sense God’s absence at times. Even though God never abandons us, we do feel at times as though He is far away.
“If we could mechanically draw Him into an encounter, force Him to meet us, simply because we have chosen this moment to meet Him, there would be no relationship and no encounter. ...We complain that He does not make Himself present to us for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer , ‘I am too busy, I am sorry’ or when we do not answer at all because we do not even hear the knock at the door of our heart, of our minds, of our conscience, of our life.” -Anthony Bloom
* We discussed approaching prayer and the example given to us of the publican and the pharisee from St. Luke 18:9
* I encouraged the group to develop a Prayer Rule, or habit, by which they might be encouraged to pray even when they don’t FEEL like it, as oftentimes, the action begets the feeling.
* And, probably what I consider the most essential element in prayer is HUMILITY. The most profitable advice I ever received regarding prayer is humility. Of my many sins, I struggle with anger the most and have found it very difficult to pray during these times... wise counsel instructed me to immediately turn from my wrath, go to my prayer corner, make the sign of the cross and worship Almighty God with prostrations. This I did, while saying the Jesus Prayer and to my joy, God blessed me with that peace that passes all understanding. If nothing else I can share, it is that St. Anthony’s words ring true throughout the ages:
“I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “humility” “.
P.S. ...I just love it when my internet searches lead me toward profitable discoveries. The beautiful watercolor is by Mirja Clement and titled, "Praying for the Bird". What a lovely surprise to see that she also writes byzantine icons.