Saint John of Kronstadt on prayer.
Brief excerpts from the journal of St. John of Kronstadt
“My Life in Christ”
“I languish, I die spiritually,” – said St. John, – “when I do not serve in church for several days, and my soul and heart revive, are aflame when I serve, immersing myself in a prayer that is not formal, but genuine, spiritual, sincere, fiery. I love to pray in God’s church, in the holy altar, before the altar table, because by the grace of God I become wondrously transformed in church; in a prayer of penitence and humility my soul becomes free of the fetters of passion and I feel uplifted; I feel as though I am dead to the world and all its goods; I come alive in God and for God, for the one God, I become suffused by Him and am one in spirit with Him; I become like a child comforted in his mother’s lap; my heart becomes full of divine sweet peace; my soul becomes enlightened with a divine light, everything is seen in this light, everyone is approached in the right way, one feels kindness and love towards everyone, even towards one’s enemies, and they are easily excused and forgiven!
O, how exalted is the soul when it is with God! The Church is truly a paradise on earth! How fervently one appeals to the Lord and the Mother of God! What meekness, humility, kindness one feels! What indifference to earthly things! What ardent desire for heavenly bliss! The tongue cannot even describe the rapture one experiences in having God within one’s heart! With Him all earthly things are like dust and decay.”
“One must constrain oneself and do prostrations even against one’s will; this is necessary to combat the pride which nestles deep within our heart. Pride cannot bear to prostrate itself.”
“A prayer requires that the object of the prayer be expressed concretely or, at the least, that the heart have a clear realization and desire of it; secondly, that this desire be expressed with feeling and a sincere belief in the mercy of the Lord and the Mother of God; thirdly, one must have a firm intention not to sin, but to fulfill the will of God in everything.”
“If you are united to God by lively faith and virtue, especially meekness, humility and mercy, ask Him whatever you wish, whatever the Holy Spirit instructs you to ask, – and you shall receive: either immediately, in an instant, in a single hour, or after a while, in accordance with God’s wisdom.”
“If during prayer you start doubting the possibility of your request being fulfilled, remember that on God’s part it is possible to give you everything, except for direct evil, which is characteristic only of the devil; that your very word or very request is already a realization on your part that the fulfillment of your request is possible; for if I can think of something, then fulfilling this “something” is undoubtedly possible for the Lord, for Whom the thought is already deed. To the possibility of fulfilling everything one should add His boundless benevolence, through which He is the Source of being and all the gifts of being. To this one must add God’s wisdom, which in giving to us knows how to chose the gift that is best for us, that accords with our spiritual and physical state. The only thing required on your part is a firm and indubitable certainty in the Lord’s fulfillment of your request, and that your request be for good things, never the opposite.”
“People who rarely pray have a weak heart; when they want to pray, their heart weakens, and their hands, body and thoughts weaken, and it is hard for them to pray. One must overcome this weakness: try to pray with one’s whole heart, because it is good and easy to pray whole-heartedly.”
“The most important thing in a prayer, of which one must take care primarily, – is to have a lively and clear-eyed faith in the Lord: think of Him being in front of you and inside you, – and then, if you wish, ask the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, and it shall be granted you. Ask simply, without any hesitation, – and your God will be everything for you, doing great and wondrous deeds in an instant.”
Many people pray falsely, and such a prayer has become a habit with them; they do not notice and do not even wish to notice that their prayer is hypocritical, so that if someone were to accuse them of hypocrisy, they would become enraged with the person who, in their opinion, had dared to utter such an absurdity. A person does not reach the state of hypocrisy all at once, but very gradually.
At first, perhaps, he prayed with all his heart, but later, – since to pray with all one’s heart constitutes a considerable effort to which one must always force oneself, for the heavenly realm, it is said, must be taken by force, – he begins to pray superficially, only with his lips and not from the depth of his heart, because it is so much easier; and finally, overcome by the battle of the flesh and the devil, he prays only with his lips, without instilling the power of the words of the prayer into his heart. There are many such people. The Lord says of them: This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me (Matt. 15:8). May the Lord save us from such a prayer! The same happens with the sacrament of confession.
From the spiritual diary of St. John of Kronstadt,
“My life in Christ.”
source: Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Baltimore, USA