“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.
St. Mark the Ascetic of Sketis said: “Suppose that there are twelve shameful passions. Indulging in any one of them is equivalent to indulging in them all.
“Sin is a blazing fire. The less fuel you give it, the faster it dies down: the more you feed it, the more it bums.” (From the Philokalia, “On the Spiritual Law”)
We who are addicts to sin, when we feel that we have made some progress towards a Christ-like life, must be careful. For one simple passion or sin can catch the others which were drying up and withering away back on fire. And from there we tend to leap head-on into despair and indulgence in sin. Ask any addict how dangerous it can be for them to treat situational triggers lightly, or to “just have one”. POOF! Like a dry forest bed, the spark causes a massive, raging fire to devour us.
And so we must always stand before the Lord, beating our breasts in humility like the Publican “God be gracious! Lord, have mercy! Lord, increase my faith!”