Ceaseless prayer and self-knowledge

If you are a simple man and you cannot understand what meant the Holy Fathers of Philokalia, use for ceaseless prayer a simpler method and you will not fall into deceit. Because unfortunately some people do not aim to kill the old man, to find humility and repentance, having asceticism as an aid in the sanctification of their souls, for filling deeply their sinfulness and the need to receive God’s mercy and utter `Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me` with sweet pain, but begin with a dry asceticism and aim to experience the divine delights and see the divine lights.

They always increase their prayers and prostrations and they consider themselves holy, making mathematical accounts of their prayers. Of course they make a stool and practice all the rest, the bending f the head and the breath, as it is said by saint Calist and Gregory from Philokalia – while these are only aiding means – and considering they are somewhere close to the saints they make prostrations. And when they think they sanctified themselves the enemy comes and turns on the tv and that is followed by the demonic prophecies etc.

That’s why you shouldn’t ask for more than repentance in your prayer brother. No light nor miracles or prophecies, or charismas, nothing else but repentance. Repentance will bring you humility, humility will bring you the grace of God and God will give you by His grace everything you need for your salvation and for helping other souls.

Things are very simple and we have no reason to confound them. In this way we’ll feel the prayer as a necessity and we will not feel any fatigue, even if we say it for many times. Then our heart will feel a sweet pain saying the prayer and Christ will give us His sweet comfort in our heart. Thus prayer gives rest not fatigue.  It is tiresome only when we don’t understand its meaning revealed by the Holy Fathers. When we feel the need for God’s mercy then without forcing ourselves to pray this hunger for praying will make us open our mouth like a baby who wants to suckle and we will feel in the same time the safety the baby feels in his mother’s arms rejoicing.

We, the monks, as telegraphists that we are, will have to be in a permanent connection with God and as much as possible on reception. And this is for feeling more safety, for having in each moment plentiful divine powers. Of course the enemy is not at rest, but plots in many ways. However we can use him to our benefit making him a worker without payment to help us in our ceaseless prayer. For instance when he brings us in our mind bad thoughts or blasphemies we should begin the prayer and say to the demon: `It’s good that you poked me because I forgot about Christ.` And when we do this even if we wanted to keep the demon near us, he doesn’t stay anymore, because he is not a fool to work for nothing and to do good to our soul.

And if we want to make an even finer work, we should review the greatest passions by turns and every mistake we made during the day and we should humbly ask for God’s mercy: `Lord Jesus Christ…` to get rid of them. In this way the passions are uprooted and the good habit of the prayer remains, not only its exterior form, that causes us false feelings and deceit.

Thus when someone comes to know himself, he feels his great sinfulness and he is aware of the great blessings from God, then the heart softens, no matter how hardened it would be and the true tears fall freely, the man doesn’t force himself to pray or to cry. Because humility and magnanimity work in the heart permanently as some drills and the springs increase and the hand of God comforts all the time his magnanimous child who exercises repentance.

When you focus on your sinfulness and do the fine work you have hope in God from the beginning. Hold on to that tightly so that you won’t ever lose it. The sins that do not belong to the physical nature you can analyze in detail to humble yourself. But do not search at all the physical ones, only consider yourself a dirty skin, full of filth. Nor dare to pray for persons who committed physical sins, beside the fact that it is considered an impudence, because you didn’t come to peace with God, the enemy will dirty yourself with filthy thoughts during the day and at night he will bring to you dirty visions to taint you.

If something like this will happen to you in your sleep do not search what you dreamt nor remember something from your previous sinful life, from where you were saved by God as if you had been a chicken saved from the claws of the eagle because he is dangerous. Otherwise you will suffer like that soldier who although God protected him from the grenade of the enemy he stood and examined the grenade and it exploded in his hands blowing up his brains. A young man can experience the same if he examines the physical sins. That’s why when we consider ourselves a dirty skin, we find more safety in that.

Pious Paisios the Athonite, Letters, Evanghelismos Publishing House, Bucharest, 2005, p. 60-p.62.