Daily Devotional for March 28 – April 3
**This week continues St. Theophan’s ‘Thoughts for Each Day’
To more strongly impress the truth that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1) and that if their prayer is not soon heard, that they should continue to pray, the Lord told a parable about the judge who did not fear God and neither regarded man. The judge complied at last with the widow’s petition, not because he feared God and regarded man, but only because that widow would not give him peace. So, if such a callous man could not withstand the persistence of this woman’s petition, will not God, who loves mankind and is filled with mercy, fulfil a petition raised up to Him persistently, with tears and contrition?! Here is the answer to why our prayers are often not heard: Because we do not send up our petitions to God zealously, but as though in passing; furthermore, we pray once today, then expect our prayer to be answered by tomorrow, not thinking to sweat and trouble ourselves any more in prayer. That is why our prayer is neither heard nor answered. We ourselves do not fulfil as we ought the law laid down for prayer—the law of hope-filled and zealous persistence.
Prayer: O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not.
The world passeth away, and the lust thereof (I John 2:17). Who does not see this? Everything around us passes away—things, people, events; and we ourselves are passing away. Worldly lust also passes; we scarcely taste the sweetness of its satisfaction before both the lust and the sweetness disappear. We chase after something else, and it is the same; we chase after a third thing—again the same. Nothing stands still; everything comes and goes. What? Is there really nothing constant?! There is, says the Apostle: he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (I John 2:17). How does the world, which is so transient, endure? Because God so desires that the world endure. The will of God is the world’s unshakeable and indestructible foundation. It is the same among people—whosoever begins to stand firmly in the will of God is made steadfast and firm at once. One’s thoughts are restless when chasing after something transient. But as soon as one comes to his senses and returns to the path of the will of God, his thoughts and intentions begin to settle down. When at last one succeeds in acquiring the habit for such a way of life, everything he has, both within and without, comes into quiet harmony and serene order. Having begun here, this deep peace and imperturbable serenity will pass over to the other life as well, and there it will abide unto the ages. Amidst the general transience of things around us, this is what is not transient, and what is constant within us: walking in the will of God.
Prayer: But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy
Do not assume that you have the right to be heard, but approach prayer as one unworthy of any attention, allowing yourself only the boldness needed to open your mouth and raise up your prayer to God, knowing the Lord’s boundless condescension toward us poor ones. Do not even allow the thought to come to your mind, “I did such and such—so give me such and such.” Consider whatever you might have done as your obligation. If you had not done it you would have been subject to punishment, and what you did is actually nothing deserving reward; you did not do anything special. That Pharisee [in the Parable] enumerated his rights to be heard, and left the church with nothing. The harm is not that he had actually done as he said, for indeed he should have done it. The harm is that he presented it as something special; whereas, having done it he should have thought no more of it. Deliver us, O Lord, from this sin of the Pharisee! One rarely speaks as the Pharisee in words, but in the feelings of the heart, one is rarely unlike him. For why is it that people pray badly? It is because they feel as though they are just fine in the sight of God, even without praying.
Prayer: Holy angel of the Lord by guardian, pray to God for me.
What does it mean to walk in truth (III John 1:4)? It means accepting truth in your heart, abiding in such thoughts and feelings as the truth requires. Thus, it is the truth that God is everywhere and sees everything. He who accepts this truth with his heart and begins to keep himself both inwardly and outwardly as if God Himself were before him and were seeing everything within him, is walking in this truth. It is the truth that God contains all, and that without Him we cannot do anything successfully. He who accepts this with his heart, and turns in prayer in whatever he does for help to God, accepting whatever happens to him as being from the hand of the Lord—is walking in this truth. It is the truth that death could steal us away at any hour, and after death immediately comes the judgement. He who accepts this truth with his heart, and begins to live as if he were about to die this minute and appear before the judgement of God, is walking in this truth. So it is concerning every other truth.
Prayer: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Who are those having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof? (II Tim. 3–5). The former are those who maintain all the external routines in which a godly life is manifested, but who do not have a strong enough will to maintain their inner dispositions as true godliness demands. They go to church and stand there readily. But they do not make the effort to stand with their mind before God continuously and to reverently fall down before Him. Having prayed a bit, they release the reins of the control of their mind; and it soars, circling over the entire world. As a result, they are externally located in church, but by their inner state they are not there: only the form of godliness remains in them, while its power is not there. You must think about everything else in this manner.
Prayer: O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
Saint Peter so enthusiastically insisted that he would not reject the Lord; but when it came down to it, he denied Him, and three times no less. Such is our weakness! Do not rely upon yourself, and when you enter into the midst of enemies, place all your hope to overcome them on the Lord. For this purpose such a fall was allowed to such a great person—so that afterwards nobody would dare on his own to do something good or to overcome some enemy, either inner or outer. You must hope in the Lord, but not stop trying. Help from the Lord joins our efforts, and thus makes them powerful. If these efforts are not there, God’s help has nowhere to descend, and it will not descend. But again, if you are filled with self-reliance, and consequently you have no need for help and seek no help—again, God’s help will not descend. How is it to descend when it is considered unnecessary?! Neither, in this case, is there anything with which to receive it. It is received by the heart. The heart opens up to receive through a feeling of need. So both the former and the latter are needed. Say, “Help, O God!” But don’t just lie around.
Prayer: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3X)
Now the Holy Church directs our attention beyond the borders of our present life, to our fathers and brothers who have passed on from here. The Church hopes that by reminding us of their state (which we ourselves shall not escape), to prepare us to spend Cheese-fare week properly, as well as Great Lent which follows. Let us listen to our mother the Church; and commemorating our fathers and brothers, let us take care to prepare ourselves for our passing over to the other world. Let us bring to mind our sins and mourn them, setting out in the future to keep ourselves pure from any defilement. For nothing unclean will enter the Kingdom of God; and at the judgement, nobody unclean will be justified. After death you cannot expect purification. You will remain as you are when you cross over. You must prepare your cleansing here. Let us hurry, for who can predict how long one will live? Life could be cut off this very hour. How can we appear unclean in the other world? Through what eyes will we look at our fathers and brothers who will meet us? How will we answer their questions: “What is this badness in you? What is this? And what is this?” What shame will cover us! Let us hasten to set right all that is out of order, to arrive at least somewhat tolerable and bearable in the other world.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.