Uncluttered Conversation: 26 March

Prayer

One of the elders said: It is not because evil thoughts come to us that we are condemned, but only because we make use of the evil thoughts. It can happen that from these thoughts we suffer shipwreck, but it can also happen that because of them we may be crowned"

Reading: Matthew 7: 13-14

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Thought

The fourth-century monk Evagrius Ponticus makes a number of recommendations about prayer:

First, "stand resolute, fully intent on your prayer. Pay no need to the concerns and thoughts that might arise the while. They do nothing bet­ter than disturb and upset you so as to dissolve the fixity of your purpose."

Second, "strive to render your mind deaf and dumb at the time of prayer and then you will be able to pray."

Third, "if you desire to pray as you ought do not sadden anyone. Otherwise you run in vain."

Fourth, if you are in conflict with anyone, then "’leave your gift before the altar and go be reconciled with your brother’ . . . and then you shall pray undisturbed. For resentment blinds the rea­son of the man who prays and casts a cloud over his prayer."

And finally, "if you know how to practice patience, you will ever pray with joy."

In other words, in order to pray, we must become better people. At the same time, prayer itself helps form us into new creatures. In this continuously changing flow between striving and recovering, we are working out our own salvation. We are undergoing the transformation of that Christ has called us to "with fear and trembling": fear, in the face of genuine mystery; trembling, as in trembling with joy.

The great secret of Christian prayer is then that, in order to engage in it, the roots of our sin must finally be confronted. We may indeed go on sinning but with a difference: no longer does it have the power to silence us from God.

Action

Today, I will choose one of these recommendations about prayer and work through it.

Prayer

Lord, may I work out my salvation with fear and trembling.