The Fruit of Prayer is in the Hands of God

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Our task in this earthly life is to be purified from the passions. But can a man hope to become suitable for the Kingdom of Heaven? And if not, what’s the point of everything: Does it really matter if the Lord will have to make up a little more or a little less of our unpaid debt with His mercy?

—Some people say: “Let God take me…” And some don’t even remember God, and they say: “I want to go THERE”—with all their garbage! It’s both funny and sad. Yes, God is able to purify man from his passions. The Lord can suddenly “enrich the poor,” according to Sacred Scripture. But man will never be able to take advantage of God’s mercy while he’s still far from humility. He’ll be subjected to particular condemnation, as happened with those who acquired the Holy Spirit but didn’t protect themselves with self-reproach and humility and therefore fell into all sorts of grievous things, offending grace. Therefore, we say about salvation: “It’s impossible for man—everything is possible for God.” But success very often depends on the measure of our humility and determination.

You can talk a lot about prayer and dream about succeeding in it, but then comes the time to stand before the icons, and laziness attacks…

—The word “laziness” is well known to us, but laziness isn’t a virtue; we mustn’t use laziness as an excuse. We have to study ourselves and choose a time and place for prayer when we’re most able to do it, to have a fresh head and heart. For example, exhaustion isn’t conducive to the prayerful activity of the spirit. We have to calm our agitated mind, as it says in the prayer book: “Pause briefly until all the senses are quieted, and then begin without haste, without negligence … so that your mind grasps the meaning of what you are saying.” We must detach ourselves from the distracting impressions of the day, and having closed the door behind ourselves, pray to God, Which is in secret.

It doesn’t always work out that we can come to prayer unhurriedly. And even if we follow all the rules and recommendations, the results aren’t always pleasing…

—It’s important not to become despondent. It’s not for nothing that the Apostle says: … patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12), that is, be constant in prayer. And take it bravely, placably when not everything works out as we would’ve liked. Quantity turns into quality. This is our mistake (it was also true of me in my youth): We remember some grace-filled state of the past, and not getting what we’re striving for today, we’re confounded, as if trying to coerce the Lord to mechanically grant us what we’re looking for in response to our work. But remember that the roof of the Ark that Noah built over the course of several decades was closed by the Lord God Himself. The fruit of prayer is in the hands of God.

The Apostles are fishing—their nets are empty; the Lord appears and commands that they cast their nets on the right side of the boat—and they make an extraordinary catch. We have to humbly accept what we have, not dreaming of what we don’t have , trusting the providence of God—for the Lord knows what is more useful for us. Temporary dryness, staleness—all of this, as wise men say, humbles a man and helps him understand that the spiritual life is not self-invention, not some soulless technology, not a sum of operations that we carry out to achieve some definite result.

The spiritual life is standing before the Living God, Who passed to the light of the Resurrection by way of the Cross. And it’s for us to walk this path too. Read how the future Abba Dorotheos, living among the most grace-filled fathers, experienced the greatest degree of longing and inner sorrow, and then this state was replaced by abundant peace, which never left him. The same happened with St. Seraphim in his nighttime prayer. Everyone must go through the “desert,” and therefore we place the main emphasis of the spiritual life not on feelings, not on states, but on the mind and loyalty to God. It doesn’t matter that I don’t feel tenderness and enlightenment. You communed—and thank God! It’s wrong to test the Lord God by asking Him what for and why, but everything must be accepted gratefully. We have to gratefully accept changes in the spiritual weather. Those who don’t assimilate this rule, that is, those who make their spiritual life dependent upon their inner state, are always in a more or less dreary state because they’re chasing after phantoms, departed shadows; they’re seeking not Christ Himself, but that which belongs to Christ: peace, stillness. But if we seek Christ, peace and stillness will come.

And what does it mean “to seek Christ?”

—To strive for loyalty to Him. To seek Christ in our souls means to preserve ourselves from everything that is displeasing to the Lord, that is forbidden by Him; to try to be pleasing to God; to fulfill His law of love.

If the soul “doesn’t feel” God, it’s very lonely. But we mustn’t cleave to anything earthly, including being excessively attached to people…

—The main art of the spiritual life is thanksgiving. “Virtue isn’t a pear; you can’t eat it all at once.” We’re all one in God: home, family, church, city, our country, the entire Church. The fear of supposed loneliness is overcome by service. God needs us. The Lord always sees us, hears us, loves us. Becoming bonded to Christ, internalizing His grace, we will always be in demand. The more we give, the more people need us—in the broadest sense of the word. No one is immune from the propensities that violate the harmony between people, as a manifestation of something egotistical; a Christian is not a man of property. He loves everyone, but gives everyone their freedom…

How can we maintain peace of soul?

—Cultivate within yourself a bright, kind, warm disposition towards people; hope in the Lord, have confidence in His mercy, and the awareness that you are a child and He is the Father. The Lord is ever with you; He will never deprive you of anything good, anything salvific. “Lord, how good it is that I have Thee with me; I am with Thee, and all those around me are very good and dear to me.” “Mother of God, I entrust myself to thee. All is well; glory to God for all things!” “Mother of God, save and protect us!” God rests in simple and gentle hearts. If you keep your heart calm and steady, prayer will come to you of itself. And, of course, you have to trust not in yourself, but in the Lord.

Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov
Translation by Jesse Dominick

St. Alexis Monastery


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