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On Prayer
What is prayer?

Prayer is an ascension of the mind and the heart toward God, a contemplation of God, a creations intrepid discourse with its Creator, a pious standing of the soul before Him, Who is the Giver of life; a neglect for His sake of all that surrounds us, food for the soul, its air and light, a life-giving warmth, a cleansing of sins, the easy yoke of Christ, His light burden.

Prayer is a constant feeling (awareness) of ones frailty or spiritual poverty, a sanctification of the soul, a foretaste of future rapture, angelic bliss, a heavenly rain which freshens, irrigates and fertilizes the soul, the power and might of the soul and body, a purification and cleansing of the mind, an enlightenment of the visage, a joyousness of the spirit, a golden thread which unites the creation with the Creator, courage and fortitude in all the sorrows and tribulations of life, the illumination of life, success in all affairs, a merit equal to that of the angels, an affirmation of faith, hope and charity.

Prayer is communion with the angels and all the God-pleasing saints.

Prayer is the rectification of life, the mother of the hearts tenderness and tears; a strong impetus towards charitable deeds; the surety of life; the destruction of mortal fear; the rejection of earthly treasures, the desire for heavenly bounties, the expectation of a universal judgment, a universal resurrection and eternal life; a fervent effort to be delivered from eternal punishment; a continuous desire to attain the Lords mercy; a walk in the eyes of the Lord; a blessed entrusting of oneself to the omnipotent and all-fulfilling Creator; the living water of the soul.

Prayer is the encompassing of everyone in ones heart by means of love; a bringing down of heaven into the soul; an encompassing of the Most-holy Trinity in ones heart, as has been said: We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him (John 14:23).

From the spiritual diary of St. John of Kronstadt,
My life in Christ

* * *

Prayer is the hardest spiritual feat, and until the very last breath it is linked to a hard struggle. Nevertheless, by His charity the Lord from time to time gives comfort to the supplicant, so that the latter would not weaken. Each person must determine his own rule of home prayers, taking into account the time he has available; such an action would not be detrimental. But I advise you to eschew a lengthy collection of prayers, in order to avoid haste and becoming a slave to your rule.

The holy fathers called prayer the queen of virtues, for it attracts other virtues. But in view of its sublimity, it requires a correspondingly enormous effort.

During prayer one must keep oneself in absolute humility, and if warmth and tears should appear, one must not think highly of oneself; let them come and go without forcing them.

Schema-abbot John, elder of Valaam.

* * *

Concentration during prayer brings tranquility to the nerves and the bloodstream, helps the heart immerse itself in repentance and remain there.

Whoever wishes to unfold within himself a deep feeling of repentance, uses a brief prayer as the tool for attaining such a condition, saying the prayer with all possible attention and piety.

Endeavor to attain purity of prayer, together with a feeling of repentance and with tears, with a remembrance of death, of the Last Judgment. Such a prayer, linked to such remembrances, is the supreme divine wisdom.

The Jesus prayer tends to reveal the passions which are concealed and secretly borne in mans heart. The prayer both reveals and tames them. The Jesus prayer tends to reveal the captivity in which the fallen spirits hold us. The prayer reveals this captivity and liberates us. Consequently, we should not be upset and dismayed when passions arise from our fallen state or when they are incited by the evil spirits. And since passions are tamed by prayer, we should - whenever they arise within us - very quietly and unhurriedly engage our mind in saying the Jesus prayer, which little by little will tame the raging passions. Sometimes the arousal of passions and the attack of evil thoughts is so strong, that it elevates a person into a state of spiritual labour. This is a time of invisible martyrdom. We must then confess the Lord before the passions and the demons with a lengthy prayer, which will bring a certain victory.

Bishop Ignaty Bryanchaninov.

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