With guidance from ‘Wounded by Love' - the Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios
‘In order not to live in darkness, turn on the switch of prayer so that divine light may flood your soul. Christ will appear in the depths of your being. There, in the deepest and most inward part, is the Kingdom of God.’ The Kingdom of God is within you. ( Luke 17:21 )
Saint Porphyrios emphasises that the only thing that can teach the soul how to pray, is the Holy Spirit. As long as we address ourselves to God, with humility, supplication and love, then our prayer will be pleasing to Him. He writes ‘ Let us stand devoutly before the Cross of Christ and say ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. That says everything.’ We are filled with divine grace during prayer, and so our human efforts are minimal and unnecessary. It is the Lord Himself that teaches us how to pray. Without me you can do nothing. ( John 15:5 )
Entering into Prayer:
Saint Porphyrios writes that we must prepare the soul for prayer, and for this reason we should create, and find ourselves the appropriate surroundings; with the light of the oil lamp, the fragrance of the incense, the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the singing of the psalms. He tells us that all of this atmosphere is appropriate for prayer, in that it causes us to pray naturally and out of simplicity of heart.
Prayer as Love of God:
Rather than praying out of necessity, prayer should take place out of our love and thanksgiving towards God. Saint Porphyrios says that it is out of divine grace, that we are taught this obligation to pray - out of our craving and love for Christ. The Lord will ‘stoop over our soul’ when He finds that we have a good intention, true humility and love for Him. Without these things, prayer is impossible he says.
Prayers not heard:
‘The slightest murmuring against your neighbour affects your soul and you are unable to pray.’ The holy elder tells us that our prayers are not heard because we are unworthy - and we are unworthy because we do not love our neighbour as our self. He even says that we are simply unable to pray, if we have not gone to be reconciled with our brother and received forgiveness. Therefore it is important to go first be reconciled with your brother and then come and offer your gift. ( Matthew 5:23-4 ) We may ask ourselves, who are worthy then of approaching Christ in prayer? Saint Porphyrios writes that those who desire and crave to belong to Christ become worthy. This takes the abandoning of our own self-centred will, and our submission to the will of God. We are able to give in to our own will, and submit ourselves to God’s, through love for Christ and by keeping His holy commandments. Of course this takes effort - but the fruit of this effort is sanctity, and unbreakable communion with God.
‘We shouldn't blackmail God with our prayers.’
Do we pray for the right things ? Saint Porphyrios tells us that we should not always ask God to release us from something - but rather we should ask God for strength and support, in order to bear a particular cross. When the Lord does not give us something that we desire,’ He has His reasons.’ God knows everything about our lives - and for this reason we should trust Him, and give our lives into His hands. He will always desire what is good for us, so by giving in to our own will, we are really doing what is best for our selfs. Before we ask for what we want in this life, we must seek first the Kingdom of God ( Matthew 6:33 & Luke 12:31 ) ‘The secret is to ask for your union with Christ with utter selflessness , without saying give me this, or give me that.’ God knows very well what our various needs are. It is in our best interest, as well as when we pray for others, to seek the will of God.
We need simplicity of heart, as it is humility and absolute trust in God. The holy elder highlights that it is only through divine grace that we acquire this simplicity and artlessness.
To conclude, Saint Porphyrios speaks of prayer as a complete submission to the will of God, taking place only through divine grace. Approaching our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, takes true humility, selflessness and love. We are told to pray with open arms, asking for Christ’s great mercy, and the strength to carry on in the spiritual struggle. ‘A prayerful life leads to a flood of divine love, filling the soul with joy and exultation.’