St. John Climacus On Prayer. Part 2

Step 28: On Prayer by St. John Climacus from: THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT . Part II


On holy and blessed prayer, the mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer

Part 2

33. War proves the soldier's love for his king; but the time and discipline of prayer show the monk's love for God.

34. Your prayer will show you what condition you are in. Theologians say that prayer is the monk's mirror.

35. He who is busy with something, and continues it when the hour of prayer comes, is deceived by the demons. Those thieves aim at stealing from us one hour after another.

36. Do not decline when asked to pray for the soul of another, even though you have not yet obtained the gift of prayer; because through contrition the faith of the suppliant also frequently saves the one who prays for him.

37. Do not be puffed up if you have prayed for another and been heard, for it is his faith that has been strong and effective.

38. Each lesson that a child learns from his teacher, he will be expected to know day by day without fail; and as is right, God requires for each prayer that we engage in a reckoning from the mind for the power it has received from Him. Therefore, we must attend to the matter. When you have prayed soberly, you will soon be fighting against fits of bad temper. For this is what our enemies aim at.

39. We should always perform every virtue, especially prayer, with great feeling. A soul. prays with feeling when it gets the better of bad temper and anger.

40. What is obtained by frequent and prolonged prayer is lasting.

41. He who possesses the Lord will no longer express his object in prayer, for then, within him, the Spirit maketh intercession for him with groanings that cannot be uttered.12

42. Do not admit any sensory phantasies during prayer, lest you become subject to derangement.

43. The assurance of every petition becomes evident during prayer. Assurance is loss of doubt. Assurance is sure proof of the unprovable.

44. Be very merciful if you care about prayer. For through mercy, monks shall receive a hundredfold,13 and the rest in the future life.

45. When the fire comes to dwell in the heart, it revives and after it is resurrected and taken up into Heaven, a descent of fire into the upper chamber of the soul takes place.

46. Some say that prayer is better than the remembrance of death, but I praise two natures in one person.14

47. A good horse, when mounted, warms up and quickens its pace. By pace I mean psalm-singing; and by horse, a resolute mind. He scents the battle15 from afar; he is all ready, and remains master of the field.

48. It is cruel to snatch water from the mouth of a thirsty person, but it is still more cruel for a soul that is praying with compunction to be torn away from its beloved task before it has finished its prayer.

49. Do not abandon prayer until you see that, by Divine providence, the fire and water16 have diminished. For perhaps you will not have such a moment for the remission of your sins again in all your life.

50. By blurting out one careless word, he who has tasted prayer often defiles his mind, and then when he stands in prayer he no longer attains his desire as before.

51. It is one thing frequently to keep watch over the heart, and another to supervise the heart by means of the mind, that ruler and high-priest that offers spiritual sacrifices to Christ. When the holy and super-celestial fire comes to dwell in the souls of the former, as says one of those who have received the title of Theologian,17 it burns them because they still lack purification, whereas it enlightens the latter according to the degree of their perfection. For one and the same fire is called both the fire which consumes and the light which illuminates.18 That is why some people come from prayer as if they were marching out of a fiery furnace, and feel relief as from some defilement and from all that is material, while others are as if illumined with light and clothed in a garment of joy and humility. But those who come from prayer without experiencing either of these two effects have prayed bodily (not to say after the Jewish fashion), and not spiritually.

52. If a body is changed in its activity from contact with another body, then how can he remain unchanged who touches the body of God with innocent hands?19

53. We see that our all-good King, like an earthly king, sometimes distributes His gifts to his warriors Himself, sometimes through a friend, sometimes through a slave, and sometimes in an unknown way; and it will be according to the garment of humility that each of us wears.

54. Just as an earthly king is disgusted by a man who turns his face away and talks to his master's enemies while in his presence, so will the Lord be disgusted by a man who admits unclean thoughts during his set time of prayer.

55. With this stick drive away the dog that approaches, and however often he behaves impudently, never give in to him.

56. Ask with tears, seek with obedience, knock with patience. For thus he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.20

57. Take care when you pray not to overdo your intercessions for those of the other sex, so as not to be despoiled from the right side.

58. Do not go into detail in confessing carnal acts, lest you become a traitor to yourself.

59, Do not let the time of prayer be an hour for considering necessary things or even spiritual tasks, otherwise you will lose the good part.21

60. He who keeps constant hold of the staff of prayer will not stumble. And even if he does, his fall will not be fatal. For prayer is a devout coercion of God.22

61. The benefit of prayer can be inferred from the assaults of the demons during divine service, and its fruit from the defeat of the foe. By this I know that Thou hast delighted in me because mine enemy shall not rejoice over me23 in the time of battle. I have cried with my whole heart, says the Psalmist,24 that is, with body, soul and spirit. For where the two last are gathered together, there God is in the midst of them.25

62. The bodily and spiritual attributes of men are not similar in all respects, for brisk chanting suits some, and more leisurely chanting suits others. For the former are struggling with captivity of the mind, and the latter with ignorance.

63. If you constantly converse with the King concerning your enemies, take courage when they attack you. You will not labour long, for they will soon retire of their own accord. These unholy spirits do not want to see you receive a crown for your struggle against them through prayer. And moreover, they will flee as from fire when scourged by prayer.

64. Have all courage, and you will have God for your teacher in prayer. Just as it is impossible to learn to see by word of mouth, because seeing depends on one's own natural sight, so it is impossible to learn the beauty of prayer from the teaching of others. Prayer has a Teacher all its own—God—that teacheth man knowledge,26 and grants the prayer of him who prays, and blesses the years of the just.27 Amen.

12 Vid. Romans viii, 26.
13 St. Matthew xix, 29.
14 A loving nature (Prayer) and a fearful nature (remembrance of death),
just as Christ has His Divine and human natures united in one Person.
15 Job xxxix, 25.
16 I.e. fervour and tears.
17 St. Gregory the Theologian, Or. 40.
18 Hebrews xii, 29; St. John i, 9.
19 This refers to the power of the Body of Christ in Holy Communion.
20 St. Matthew vii, 8.
21 Vid. St. Luke x, 42.
22 St. Luke xviii, 5.
23 Psalm x1,11.
24 Psalm cxviii, 145.
25 Cf. St. Matthew xviii, 20.
26 Psalm xciii, 10.
27 1 kings ii, 9 (the Septuagint differs from the A.V. and R.V. here).

from: THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT by St. John Climacus HOLY TRANSFIGURATION MONASTERY, Boston Massachusetts, 1991, pp. 217-220.