Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi on the Importance of Mental Prayer
All virtues are somehow the paths, the routes which lead us towards the Lord, towards His memory and towards our relationship with Him. But there is no better virtue than the mental prayer which leads us directly and actively towards the memory of the Lord. It is for this reason that our Fathers, with whom we lived, have insisted on this issue. And if you ask me, I also say to you that as monks, we ought to adhere to this prayer on top of all the other promises we have given. We may make some allowances for other things but not on this. We are all able to stick with this, if we want to. Whether standing, or sitting, whether we are sick or working, walking or eating or whatever else we are doing, we must recite the prayer for as long as we are awake so that we even recite it in our sleep.
To those who have made some progress, the mental prayer operates in their sleep. You must be attentive and keep trying. You must not give up in any way. Let’s go to our cells now and get on with it. We will meet with resistance and temptation, of course. We know these things. It is possible to make progress and feel at peace for one or two nights, a week or a fortnight. This cannot possibly continue; it will be interrupted. Sleepiness will come or slumber or various thoughts and a thousand other predicaments, of which we all have had experience. It is irrational to be scared since we know who will come and from where and what he is looking for. However, we also know that our goal is to preserve on the memory of the Lord and on this we will insist. Won’t he let us stand? Let us sit down. Won’t he let us sit but brings on sleepiness? We will get up again. Will he not allow us to stand? Let us walk. He comes and pressurizes us. We are overwhelmed by various thoughts. We stop for a second and somehow talk with ourselves or rather we tell the one who is opposing us: ‘What do you want from me? I will not give up. I did not come here by chance. I am fully aware of my mission and I know very well that I am a monk. I will not retreat. This is my duty. I love my Jesus, who has called me to follow Him and I will continue to pursue Him. I will not allow you to stop me’.
– ‘The Practical Expression of Love’