Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way
by Matthew the Poor
Saints who experience the power of prayer say it gives them wings to fly: wings of elation from being in proximity with Jesus Christ and relief from the burden of a sinful conscience. Once engulfed in the grace of the Holy Spirit, the person in prayer experiences death to sin, resurrection in the Spirit, and mystical ascension to the Father. The visible touches the Invisible, and joy wells up in the human heart.
This volume evolved experientially: the fruit of fifty-five years of solitude by a contemporary desert monk besieged by prayer. Father Matta's prayer life initially was formed under the direction of the sayings of the Russian Fathers, and later expanded under the direction of other Fathers, both Eastern and Western. He spent whole nights in prayer, reciting one or two passages from these luminaries and begging these saints to enlighten his understanding.
Father Matta discloses: Whenever physical hunger turned cruel against me, I found my gratification in prayer. Whenever the biting cold of winter was unkind to me, I found my warmth in prayer. Whenever people were harsh to me (and their harshness was severe indeed) I found my comfort in prayer. In short, prayer became my food and my drink, my outfit and my armor, whether by night or by day.
Desiring to share the lessons he learned, and compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so, he wrote this volume so that he might impart to his readers "a whole course" on the life of prayer.
Father Matta El-Maskeen (Matthew the Poor) is a monk in the Monastery of St Macarius the Great, Wadi El-Natroun, Egypt. He also is the author of Communion of Love, published by St Vladimir's Seminary Press.
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Exerpts of the book:
The human soul’s relationship with God and the longing to speak with him are essential elements of man’s very being. In the same way, ministry and praise are essential elements in the nature of angels. The tree that is ordained to bear fruit according to its kind does so in its proper season. So, too, does the man who responds to the spirit of worship within his soul also bear good fruit in good time.
Coping with Spiritual Paralysis
Periods of impasse, of oppressive grief, of darkness engulfing the soul are inseparable parts of religious life.
If man tries to plumb the depths of his soul, he finds himself at a loss, for its depths are beyond his reach. It is as if his spiritual footing has been lost, alienating him from the essence of his life. If he tries to examine his faith and secretly measure it in his heart, he finds that it has died, gone. If he knocks at the door of hope, if he clings to the promises of God he had once cherished and lived by, he finds in what he used to find hope has now turned to ice. Hope is stuck in the cold present and not willing to move beyond it.
The enemy seizes this opportunity, striking with all his firepower. He launches an offensive to convince man of his failure, of the ruin of all his struggle and effort. The enemy tries to persuade man that his whole spiritual life was not true or real, that it was nothing but fanciful illusions and emotions. He clamps down on man's mind that he might once and for all deny the spiritual life.
Yet, amidst all these crushing inner battles, the soul somehow has an intuition that all these doubts are untrue and that something must exist on the other side of the darkness. It also feels that, in spite of itself, it is still bound to the God who has forsaken it. The soul continues to worship God without realizing or even wanting to! Deep within, far away from the mind's eye or discernment, the heart continues to pray, albeit it is a prayer that gives him no comfort or assurance.
When the enemy seeks to deal his fatal blow, trying to force the soul to renounce its faith and hope, he encounters no response. The soul may give in to the enemy in the battle of the mind in complete surrender and to the farthest limits of error. But it is absolutely impossible for the soul to take action, for at the point where imagination and thought turn into action, the will springs forth like a lion out of his den to terrify all the foxes of corruption.
Hence, behind spiritual languor there exists a relationship with God that, though inactive, is real and still very strong, stronger than all the whispers of the devil. Yet until the decisive moment of danger, this relationship sleeps. ...
Ce livre correspond au livre traduit en français: L'Expérience de Dieu dans la vie de prière.