Prayer is Warfare to the Last Breath

The brethren asked abba Agatho, “Amongst all good works, which is the virtue which requires the greatest effort?”

He answered,

“Forgive me, but I think there is no labour greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath.”

Abba Agatho

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Whatever Our Mind Has Been Thinking Of

“Whatever our mind has been thinking of before the hour of prayer, is sure to occur to us while we are praying through the activity of the memory. Wherefore what we want to find ourselves like while we are praying, that we ought to prepare ourselves to be before the time for prayer.”
St John Cassian, First Conference of Abbot Isaac

Our mind wanders so much during prayer, doesn’t it? I know mine does. And so what St. John says here holds very true. If we are surrounding ourselves with heavenly things, then when it comes time for prayer, at the least, heavenly things will be in and on our mind. This will snowball -if you will permit my poor analogy- and build upon itself. Holiness begets holiness. As well, sin begets sin.

Be holy!

The Lord is near!

From St. John of Kronstadt’s “My Life in Christ”

All possible sins and passions are ready to break into the soul, and strive to do so at every moment. But fight against them valiantly and vigilantly unto your last breath, looking upon them as dreams of your imagination, as illusions of the spirits of evil.

Be so sure of the Lord’s nearness to you that you may feel when praying to God that you touch Him not only with your thought and heart, but also with your mouth and tongue. ” The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart;” that is God.

The Lord is Everything!

From St. John of Kronstadt’s “My Life in Christ”

When praying, endeavour by every means to feel in your heart the truth and the power of the words of the prayer; feed yourself upon them as upon an imperishable food; water your heart with them as with a dew; and warm yourself by them as by means of a beneficial fire.

The Lord is everything to me: He is the strength of my heart and the light of my intellect. He inclines my heart to everything good; He strengthens it; He also gives me good thoughts; He is my rest and my joy; He is my faith, hope and love; He is my food and drink, my raiment, my dwelling place. .As a mother is everything to her infant—its mind, will, sight, hearing, taste, smelling and feeling, as well as its food and drink, its clothing, hands and feet—so, likewise, the Lord is everything to me, when I yield myself wholly unto Him. But, alas! when I fall away from the Lord, then the Devil enters into me, and if I did not turn my heart’s gaze towards the Lord, did I not, amidst the enemy’s oppression, call upon the Lord for help, then the Devil would have been, as he sometimes is, very evil to me: malice, despondency, perfect feebleness towards everything good, despair, hatred, envy, avarice, blasphemous, wicked and impure thoughts, contempt for everything—in short, he would have been, and sometimes is, my intellect, my will, sight, hearing, taste, smell, feeling, my hands and feet. Therefore, put your trust in the Lord. He is that which is, infinite in holiness, omnipotence, grace, mercy, bountifulness, and wisdom.

Believe and Trust…

From St. John of Kronstadt’s “My Life in Christ”

“Believe and trust that as it is easy for you to breathe the air and live by it, or to eat and drink, so it is easy and even still easier for your faith to receive all spiritual gifts from the Lord. Prayer is the breathing of the soul; prayer is our spiritual food and drink.”

Back to St. John of Kronstadt!

Another quote from “My Life in Christ”

“When you are struck by other people’s suffering, and the contraction of their souls, so that you are induced to pray for them with a pitying and contrite heart, pray to God to have mercy upon them and to forgive them their sins, as you would pray for the forgiveness of your own sins–that is, implore God with tears to pardon them; likewise pray for the salvation of others as you would pray for your own salvation. If you attain to this and make it a habit, you will receive from God an abundance of spiritual gifts, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, Who loves the soul that cares for the salvation of others, because He Himself, the most Holy Spirit, wishes to save us all in every possible way, if only we do not oppose Him, and do not harden our hearts. “The Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.””

Experience=Example

“As it is impossible to verbally describe the sweetness of honey to one who has never tasted honey, so the goodness of God cannot be clearly communicated by way of teaching if we ourselves are not able to penetrate into the goodness of the Lord by our own experience.”

St. Basil the Great, Conversations on the Psalms, 29