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God does not demand the impossible

The Savior commanded: go into your closet and pray there to God the Father in secret. That closet, according to the interpretation of Holy Hierarch St. Dimitry of Rostov, is the heart. It follows that the Lord’s commandment demands that we mentally pray to God in secret, in the heart. That commandment applies to all Christians. That is what the Apostle Paul commands when he says that we must be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit...” (Ephesians 6:18). He commands prayer of the heart, spiritual prayer, and without qualification commands it to be done by all Christians. After all, he directs all Christians to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17), and it is impossible to pray without ceasing except by praying the prayer of the heart. Thus, indisputably, mental prayer of the heart is required of all Christians, and if it is required, then one cannot say that it is hardly possible, for God does not require of us the impossible. True, it is difficult, but it is unfair to say that it is impossible. After all, in general anything good is difficult; all the more reason that should prayer be such - for us it is a fount of and a steady support for all that is good.

Holy Hierarch St. Theophanes the Recluse

In response to our abandoning our prayer rule, the Lord abandons our soul.

Venerable St. Nilus of Sinai

Make it your custom not to begin any work without prayer.

Schema-Archimandrite Zosima

Prayer is communing of life. Abandoning it brings unseen death.

The soul of prayer is attentiveness. As the body without a soul is dead, so prayer without attentiveness is dead.

Prayer is the mother and head of all virtues, as the means and condition of man's communion with God.

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

If you will be condemned by your conscience as a despiser of God's commandments, and if you will stand at prayer distractedly when you could stand undistracted, then do not dare to stand before God, lest your prayer be turned into sin. And if you endeavor, but are not successful in praying without distraction, then force yourself as much as your strength avails, and continue to stand before God, turning your mind to Him and gathering Him into yourself, and God will forgive you: because not from carelessness, but out of weakness you did not have the strength to stand before God as one ought.

St. Basil the Great

If inward activity according to God does not assist a man, then he labors in vain outwardly. Inasmuch as our Lord Jesus Christ said: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Luke 11:9), pray to the Most Good God that He send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, and He, having come, will teach you everything and will reveal unto you all mysteries. Seek in Him a guide for yourself; He will not permit deception or distraction into the heart; He will not allow negligence and despondency or drowsiness of thought; He will enlighten the eyes, make steadfast the heart, raise up the mind. Cleave unto Him, believe Him, love Him; for He makes the foolish wise, delights the mind, gives strength, purity, joy and righteousness, teaches longsuffering and meekness, love and peace, and grants them.

Hierarch Theophanes the Recluse

Let us not hide behind excuses, saying, that there is no house of prayer nearby. Wherever you might be, you may raise up an altar, by showing only a sober disposition; the place does not hinder, nor does the time hinder; and though you do not bend your knees, though you do not beat your breast, nor stretch out your hands to heaven, but only show fervor of feeling toward God ­ you have performed the work of prayer as one ought. It is possible even for a woman sitting at the spinning wheel or loom to look up to heaven in mind and warmly call upon God. It is possible also for a man who has entered the market place or who is walking alone to make earnest prayers. And for him who is sitting in a shop and sewing something of leather, it is possible to be raised up to God in soul. And it is possible for a servant, when he is buying something or running up or down in accomplishing his service to the master of the house, or when he is standing before the hearth in the kitchen, to make fervent prayers in his heart, if there is no time to go to church. God is not ashamed of the place; He seeks one thing ­ an ardent heart and a chaste soul.

St. John Chrysostom

The wicked spirit reminds those who have stood up for prayer about necessary matters and makes use of every contrivance in order only to deflect us from conversing with the Lord, by some kind of specious excuse. Beat the enemies with the name of Jesus: for there is no more powerful weapon either in heaven or on earth.

Do not say, after remaining a long time at prayer and not seeing any fruit: I have gained nothing; because the very act of remaining at prayer is already a gain; and what good is higher than this ­ to cleave to the Lord and remain unceasingly in union with Him.

Venerable John of the Ladder

Whoever knows how to live well, knows how to pray well.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon yours lusts (James 4:3). When we ask something of God "amiss", then He manifests His wrath if he fulfills our petition, and manifests loving-kindness when he does not fulfill it.

Blessed Augustine

Whoever wishes that God would quickly hear his prayer, when he stands up to make it ­ before any other prayer, even before praying for his own soul ­ let him offer prayer for his enemies, and for the sake of this, God will hear his every prayer.

Abba Zeno

When we pray and God is slow to hear, He does this for our benefit, in order to teach us longsuffering; and therefore one must not become despondent either, saying: we prayed and were not heard. God knows what is beneficial for man.

Saint Barsanuphius the Great

Pray not to this end, that your own desires be fulfilled. You can be sure they do not fully accord with the will of God. Once you have learned to accept this point, pray instead that "Thy will be done" in me. In every matter ask Him in this way for what is good and for what confers profit on your soul, for you yourself do not seek this so completely as He does.

Many times while I was at prayer, I would keep asking for what seemed good to me. I kept insisting on my own request, unreasonably putting pressure on the will of God. I simply would not leave it up to His providence to arrange what He knew would turn out for my profit. Finally, when I obtained my request I became greatly chagrined at having been so stubborn about getting my own way, for in the end the matter did not turn out to be what I had fancied it would.

Evagrius of Pontus

The Heavenly Father is as compassionate when he gives bread, as He is good when he does not give a burning coal to a witless child.

If the All­good Heavenly Father does not visibly fulfill your desire, then, without a doubt, He is invisibly taking care of your welfare more than you can know and imagine.

Hierarch Philaret of Moscow

Sometimes God does not fulfill our petitions or is slow in fulfilling them not because He does not love us, but in order that we would continually resort to Him. Thus do fathers who love their children also act: seeing that one of their children is negligent, they do not suddenly fulfill his request, not because they hate him, but in order that having received he would not fall again into negligence.

Venerable Joseph of Volokolamsk

If you pray to God about something and He is slow to hear you, do not grieve over this. You are not wiser than God.

Venerable Isaac the Syrian

In order that our prayers would not remain fruitless, but would be heard by God and fulfilled by Him, for this one must, by being well pleasing to God through virtue and a life obedient to God's commandments, not only make one's prayers with proper attention and reverence, not only know how to pray and be able to pray, but also to know what to pray for, that is, to choose as the very subject of our prayers what is pleasing to God. If you ask of God things pleasing to His will, then He will grant to you what is also pleasing to your will. Ask not of God what is vain and of little importance, and even more, that which perhaps is pernicious to your soul, for example, wealth, glory and so forth. Such a prayer not only is fruitless for us, but can even become sin for us, as something that offends God. God often gives in wrath that which he denies in mercy. In prayer, it is best of all and safer for us to give ourselves over to God, that is, to ask of Him that which it is pleasing to Him to give to us Himself, according to the condition of our body, our soul and our spirit.

from The Spiritual Flower Garden

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