^Thoughts on prayer from Archimandrite Sergius this week

God has so much to give, and yet so often we are so busy telling Him what we want; or maybe we’re doing good things in the church, being about the Lord’s business.  Yet every day, the consistent practice of standing before God in silence is the most necessary thing.  As Mary shows us in the Gospel, she’s sitting at the feet of Jesus, just receiving and listening – listening to Christ’s words.  And her sitting at His feet shows her subjection to Him, as she listens in attentiveness and humility.


Luke 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Prayer:  We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
*Sub Tuum Praesidium



As we sit in subjection at the feet of Christ in our daily life, all we have to do is receive.  It’s all there!  Our task is simply to make that space in our heart, so that God can give us all of His life, all of His love, all of His mercy, all of His grace.  It’s up to us to make that place, to make that space.  Yet so many things in this world crowd it out.


Mark 4:18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,   And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Prayer:  O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.


This [listening in silence] really isn’t too hard, if you get into the habit of doing it.  It’s not that bad!  It’s something we can habituate ourselves to; it’s not something impossible.  That Gospel passage has the same message for that busy part of us.  It says that Martha was distracted by many things.  It didn’t say that serving is bad!  But that word was in there!  She was distracted by her serving.  And that distraction is what pulled her away from Christ, from receiving the good part that would not have been taken away from her.


Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Prayer:  Holy angel of the Lord by guardian, pray to God for me.


As we look at our own lives, the Fathers always talk about reconciling Martha and Mary.  The reality is that it’s OK to do both, as long as we’re not distracted by what we do, and as long as we have a heart that’s alive to God at all times during the day – morning, noon, and night.  Whether we’re on our bed, or whether we’re at our workplace, or whether we’re in our prayer corner, or whether we’re at church, to have our heart alive to God is the key.  The beginning, the middle, and the end of the neptic and watchful tradition of our Church is to be present to the Lord, to continue the dialogue with Him, by His help.


Psalm 25:15 Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

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.


And every time an evil thought comes to us, we say, “Lord, without You I can do nothing.  I am Thine; save me!”  Just like Peter saying, “Lord, I’m sinking!” (Matt. 14:30).


This is the dialogue that we have with God.  And St. Theophan the Recluse says this is what routs evil thoughts.  For all the impurity of our world, the difficulties of all the ethical and moral situations that we’re in – really, it’s the formation of the heart, which only comes through encounter with the living God, that’s the key, leading us to understand not only what God wants of us, not only how to proceed towards God, but this also even enables us to do His will for us.

Psalm  119:113  I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.  Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

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.


Only God can give us a right mind.  There’s no way we can force this upon people, or say to them, “You need to have a right mind!”  How can you give someone a right mind?  Christ Himself must give us this mind.  And it must be renewed in us every day, because otherwise we’ll lose it.  It’s not something we have by virtue of being great people.  This is not about being good; it’s about being in communion with God, which will lead us to good.


Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Prayer:  Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3X)


As we continue to use the Jesus Prayer, watchfulness is built up within us, so that we become like sentries, as Fr. Zacharias says, at the doors of the fortress-castle of our heart.  Then we can see bad thoughts, bad thinking, wrong ideas – after a while, we can see them coming from a mile away.  And then, all of a sudden, we’re able to say to those thoughts, “Get out of here!”  And they leave us!  They run away!  We’re actually able to sense their approach, through this energy of watchfulness that’s given to us, very simply, through the Jesus Prayer.


James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.