For a young man who asked about prayer

My beloved brother in Christ, I wish you be well! Today I received your letter and I answer to everything you wrote to me. What you asked me does not require time or effort to think about how to answer.

For me the prayer of the mind is like any other craft, because I have been practicing it for more than 36 years.

When I came to the Holy Mountain I looked first for the hermits who practiced the prayer. At that time – about 40 years ago – there were many who had life in themselves. Virtuous people, elders of the old times. From these we chose spiritual advisers.

Thus the work of the mind is to strive to say permanently the prayer with your mouth. At the beginning quickly so that the mind has no time to form vain thoughts. Take heed only at the words: Jesus Christ have mercy on me! And when this is done for a long time, the mind gets used with it and shall say it all the time.

Sweeten yourself as if you had honey in your mouth and due to this you shall come to wish that you say it without cease. And if you leave it you are grieved.

When the mind gets used with it and fills with it – it learns it well – then it sends it to the heart. Because the mind is the one that feeds the soul and anything it sees or hears, be it good or bad, its role is to send it to the heart, where is the center of the spiritual and bodily power of man, the throne of the mind. When that one who prays keeps his mind so that it does not imagine anything, only takes heed at the words of the prayer, then breathing softly, with a little strife and will, takes it to the heart and keeps it there as in a grasp and says the prayer rhythmically: Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me!

At first he says the prayer for a few times and breathes once. Then after the mind gets used to staying in the heart, says a prayer at each breath. Lord Jesus Christ and breathes in at have mercy on me then breathes out. And this is repeated until the grace adumbrates him and begins to work inside his soul. After that everything is contemplation.

The prayer may be said everywhere, when you sit down, lie in bed, walk or stand. Pray without cease. Give thanks for everything, says the apostle. You should not pray only when you go to bed, but also when you stand or sit. Strife is required. When you get tired, sit down.Then again stand up so that you will not fall asleep.

This is called accomplishment. You show your good intention to God. Then everything depends on Him, if He gives it to you. God is the beginning and the end. His grace accomplishes everything. The grace is the driving force.

How love is born and works depends on the fulfillment of the commandments. When you wake up in the night and pray, when you see the sick and have compassion for him, when you see the widow, the orphans, the old people and pray for them, then God loves you. But you love Him too. He loves first and pours His. If you try to find Him only through prayer do not breathe without prayer. Only be careful not to receive any imagining because God is shapeless, He cannot be contained in images, He is without colour, beyond perfection. He cannot be subject of any reasoning. He works like a soft breeze in our minds.

Humility comes when you think how much you upset God when He is so kind, so sweet, so merciful, so loving; when He was crucified and suffered so much for us. When you think about all these and about many others suffered by God, they bring you humility.

Thus if you can say the prayer aloud, without cease in two three months you shall get used with it. The grace shall adumbrate you and cool you. Only say it aloud without cease. And when the mind takes it over you shall find rest and will not say it with your mouth. Then again when it is left by the mind, start it back with your mouth. You must strive at first to say it with your mouth until you get used with it. Then in all the years of your life, your mind will say it effortlessly.

When you come to the Holy Mountain as you say, come and visit us. But then we shall talk about other matters. You will not have time for prayer. You shall find prayer when your mind is peaceful. Here while going to the monasteries and other places your mind spreads to all the things you will hear and see.

I am sure you shall find prayer. Do not doubt it! Only knock right at the door of the divine mercy and Christ shall open it for you. It is impossible not to open it to you. Love Him much so that you receive much. On your love for Him, be it much or less, it depends the dedication, either much or less.

[1] it refers at the prayer: Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me! or the prayer of the mind

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