Metroplitan Kallistos Ware on Prayer
Prayer is not necessarily asking for things, though it may
sometimes be that. It does not necessarily mean using words. Fundamentally, prayer means “God
St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of prayer as a sense of presence. God awareness. The realization that I am in
God and God is in me. And this can be something all embracing. That’s why St. Paul says, “Pray without
ceasing.” It can be something that’s present in everything else we do–a sense that God is with us. So
that prayer is not necessarily just an activity set apart. It’s something that can be intertwined with the
whole of our life.
Now, if we look at prayer that way, why is it so difficult? To me, the answer is we humans are scattered.
We’re fragmented. We find it very difficult to be gathered. To be concentrated, single-pointed. We
suffer from wandering thoughts. I remember reading once in the Reader’s Digest the following
apothegma: the people who get things done are the people who do one thing at a time. And I thought,
how true! But then I also thought, that’s quite difficult–to do one thing at a time. And certainly it’s
difficult in the case of prayer. This fragmentation that I speak of is not something that we’ve
deliberatively desired for ourselves. I suppose it is a consequence of the Fall. But this means that, in
prayer, what is asked of us is regularity, persistence, faithfulness.
It’s a strange paradox. When something isn’t very important, it’s not so difficult to concentrate. When
we’re watching television we don’t suffer particularly from an inability to concentrate and attend to
what’s happening. If we’re reading a serious book, a biography, or a piece of historical writing, then the
concentration is more difficult, but it’s not so hard. Prayer, which is the most important thing of all, then
the concentration is hardest of all.
He does know what’s going on. He does see into our hearts But He wants us to tell Him. He wants us to
bring it into the open, to be honest with Him
And this would bring us to another point about prayer. The aim of prayer is not to change God’s mind. It
is to change our mind. Some people say, why pray to God? He knows what is best for us. Why don’t we
just leave it to Him? That’s true, He does know what is best for us and we don’t know. But, by praying,
we are not so much making God agree with us, but, through prayer, we are helped to make ourselves
agree with God.”
– Questions about prayer
**We are pleased to include writings from modern American Monasteries from time to time as well as our traditional Elders**