25. THE RIGHT WAY TO
PRAY IN THE HEART

 

"But when you pray, enter your closet, and when you have closed the door, pray to your Father Who is in secret, and the Father Who sees in secret shall reward you openly. (Matthew 6:5.)

The long-term aim of all this is that we must learn to search for the action of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Fathers taught that if we discover the Holy Spirit inside us, He will begin to pray in our hearts.  This is the peak of prayer, and the true aim of our prayer-life. This is why Palamas asks: "If the Psalmist says ˜the king's daughter is all-glorious within', why do we search for her outside? And if the Apostle says, ˜God gave His Spirit to cry in our hearts, Abba, Father,'  (Galatians 4:6.) how is it that we too do not pray in the Spirit within our hearts? (Saint Gregory Palamas - The Triads,  A Praxis publication (see Bookshop)

So how do we learn to pray in the heart? We begin by turning our attention into our mind, as Elder Porphyrios wrote: "The Lord Himself will teach us how to pray. We won't learn prayer on our own, nor will anyone else teach us it. Don't let us say to ourselves ˜I have made such-and-such number of prostrations, so now I have obtained divine grace.' Let us rather make entreaty for the pure light of divine knowledge to shine within us, to open our spiritual eyes so that we may understand His divine words. (˜Elder Porphyrios “ Wounded By Love' - Trans. By Father John Raffan. Available from Praxis Bookshop.)

Porfyrios taught us how to pray in the heart, using the Jesus prayer:  "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." The essence of this is that if we wish to turn towards God in reality, we should practice this until we say the prayer in a consistent manner that is consistently effective in raising spiritual energy within us.  The more we do this, the more we will find ourselves moving from our normal western way of thinking into a true Christian way of mind.

Under normal conditions of life, most of the activities within people's psyches are responses to what happens in the outside world, yet traditional Christian sources say that we are formed in God's image. Although we cannot be said to be a true ˜likeness' of God, if we think of the divine in a mature way, what we think may begin to shape our behaviour, so that it was said that to ˜obey the commandment' is to live 'according to the image of God', but this image is made useless by anything that makes us forget the spiritual truth.

Yet Christ said that Man could become Godlike through the completion of our Theosis. Our first glimpse of Theosis is found in the transfiguration of our psyche, when it is focused on some truth until everything else falls away. The example we gave earlier, where Christ taught that we should clean the ˜inside of the cup', (REF) and the experiential reality of that teaching forms the basis of inner Christianity to this day ... but, as He said many times, ˜not everyone understands'. Instead, the elder said only: "Prayer should not be a chore. Coercion may provoke a harmful reaction within us. Many people have become ill as a result of prayer, because they forced themselves.  (Ibid p122.)

The prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me", is sometimes called the prayer of a single word, for it is said that when the heart is cleansed of all activity, only what is known as the ˜prayer of a single word' can remain there. It is for this reason that the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me", is sometimes called the prayer of a single word.  To enter-into ourselves means more than simply adopting a special posture; it must be an act that takes our attention into our body, then into our psyche, and once our attention turns to our psyche, it must pass on into the nous, which is the ˜inner eye' at the heart of the psyche. " Attention, once made pure of distracting influences, can perceive and even control itself.  This, said Saint Gregory Palamas," is the most excellent and appropriate activity, by which the nous comes to transcend itself and become united to God.  (Saint Gregory Palamas - The Triads, Volume 1, Part 2.5. Bristol, UK. Praxis Institute Press, 2001. ISBN 1-872292-15-1.)